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Price tag to taxpayers for Princeton’s affordable housing lawsuit: $180,000

Princeton officials underestimated the cost of challenging the town’s affordable housing obligation in court by 260 percent.

The governing body is slated tonight to vote on a resolution that would increase the amount of money Princeton will spend on an affordable housing lawsuit from $50,000 to $180,000.

The municipality joined East Windsor Township, Hamilton Township, Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township and West Windsor Township in challenging the methodology used to establish municipal fair share affordable housing obligations. Other municipalities in the county already settled regarding their fair share affordable housing obligations.

In December, the governing body approved the appointment of Jeffrey R. Surenian and Associates and The Buzak Law Group as special counsel in the trial on the fair share methodological issues. The council also authorized the mayor to enter into professional services agreements with Surenian and Buzak, Econsult Solutions, Inc.,  and Nassau Capital Advisors, LLC for services during the trial.

In December, Princeton’s  estimated cost for Surenian’s and Buzak was $25,000 and the estimated cost for Econsult Solutions and Nassau Capital Advisors was $25,000. Officials said the length of the trial and the need for new calculations caused the cost overruns.

Officials touted an “agreement in principle” in the lawsuit a month ago, yet as of today no formal agreement has been approved and is not on the agenda for the Princeton Council’s 7 p.m. public meeting tonight. The council is slated to discuss the lawsuit in closed session tonight at 5:30 p.m.

Superior Court judges throughout the state have been tasked with assigning hundreds of municipalities an “obligation,” or number of affordable units that the municipality must include in zoning plans. Affordable housing advocates and many developers  push for a higher number of units, and municipalities often advocate for fewer units.

Figures have not been made public regarding Princeton’s potential affordable housing obligations negotiated in any settlement.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Pat Palmer

    Personally I would rather see this money and energy pointed at developers. Providing more affordable housing is simply the right thing to do.

  • TaxPoorInPrinceton

    It does seem like the long-term future in Princeton is the vanishing of the middle-class as one either needs to be in affordable housing or be able to buy a $700,000+ house.

  • Douglas Rubin

    $180k in legal expenses is relatively small compared to the cost to the community of forcing builders/developers to price, and the town/schools to tax dwellings at a fraction of their fair market value.

    Middle-income (for Princeton, that is) residents continue to get forced out of Princeton due to the increased costs of providing “affordable” housing for those who qualify. Hence the dearth of “affordable” homes in the $300~$600k range that once proliferated in many of our neighborhoods.

    Not saying that lower-income folks shouldn’t have a place to live in Princeton, but Federal/State government edicts, and court decisions are a sledge-hammer that cause many unintended consequences (to open space, transportation requirements, home improvement regulations, etc.).

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