About two months after Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert announced that the municipality reached a tentative settlement with a group that advocates for affordable housing across the state, the deal regarding the town’s affordable housing obligations is off and a judge will now decide how many units the town must build.
Princeton officials have claimed that the advocacy group, Fair Share Housing, tried to change the terms of the settlement, but Fair Share Housing has denied the claim.
“We are disappointed that Princeton is attempting to find a way to build fewer homes that working families, seniors and people with disabilities can afford by refusing to proceed with the settlement we reached with them in principle two months ago,” said Anthony Campisi, spokesman for Fair Share Housing Center. “These homes are desperately needed. Despite our willingness to abide by the terms both sides had agreed to, we will now have to resolve this matter through litigation.”
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 for the period from 1999 to 2025. Affordable housing advocates and many developers push for a higher number of units, and municipalities often advocate for fewer units.
Princeton joined several other Mercer County municipalities in litigation challenging Fair Share Housing’s recommended obligations for municipalities about two years ago and is one of the few remaining towns that has not settled.
Town officials issued a brief press release about the case on Tuesday afternoon. Experts representing the municipality argue the town’s obligation for the period from 1999 to 2025 should be 457 affordable housing units. According to town officials, Fair Share Housing estimated the obligation should be 1,495 units. The court’s expert, according to town officials, determined Princeton’s obligation to be 501 units.
The court case has recently concluded and we are awaiting the Judge’s decision, as well as
maintaining ongoing settlement discussions with the Fair Share Housing Center,” reads the press statement by Business Administrator Marc Dashield. “Princeton’s mayor and council are united in their desire to achieve a resolution and resume the important business of planning for future affordable housing that strengthens the community’s diversity, sustainability and economy.”
Princeton has spent more than $180,000 for special legal counsel and consulting fees related to the case. That total does not include the fees for the town’s municipal lawyer.