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And what about housing for the middle class in Princeton?

We, members of the Princeton Progressive Action Group, in common with many other local residents, are alarmed at the increasingly pressing lack of housing that is available at middle income levels in Princeton. The municipality has begun taking steps to change zoning to reduce the size and control the look of new houses and additions. Making more stringent setbacks, height and coverage requirements could possibly make houses smaller and better-fitting into the streetscape, but these changes alone have not and will not make them more affordable.

We encourage the municipality to concentrate the next round of zoning changes on allowing and encouraging the “missing middle homes” described in the progress report of th Neighborhood character initiative and thus fulfilling the goal of our Mmaster plan to encourage diversity in our housing stock.

Below are three specific suggestions for short term actions that are easy to implement, have low or no impact and will make a substantial difference:

1. Allow “flats” in the former borough: Currently “flats,” or secondary units that could be rented out by the primary homeowner, are allowed in the former township only. The income from these flats can help current residents stay in their homes longer by offsetting rising taxes or providing money for property maintenance and improvement.

2. Where “flats” are allowed, allow two-family or duplexes: Allow residents to convert existing houses with “flats” to two-family dwellings/duplexes or to build new duplexes. This will not increase the size of houses over what is currently allowed, or increase density since two families are already allowed to occupy these properties. The only difference is that instead of a $1.3 million house with a potential rental unit, there could be two separate units. Since the flat ordinance for larger lots requires one unit to be larger and one to be smaller, there will likely be a unit for sale at $950k and a smaller unit for $350k. We could finally get our desperately-needed homes for middle-income families and empty-nesters.

3. Reduce parking requirements: Current zoning requires 1.5 cars per dwelling unit. This means two cars for a single-family residence and three cars for a house with a flat. Often flats are not feasible because the property cannot accommodate the additional parking. Eliminating the parking requirement for a unit that is designed to accommodate aging-in-place could be a win-win for all.

In summary, we affirm that the neighborhood character we should protect comprises not just the buildings in a neighborhood, but also the people who live in those buildings. We can start with these simple changes in the short term, while working on the long-term items of form-based zoning and neighborhood character guidelines.

Princeton Progressive Action Group and members:

Samuel F Bunting, Dempsey Avenue
Jane Manners, Wheatsheaf Lane
Omar Wasow, Cherry Hill Road
Valerie Haynes, Mt Lucas Road
Jenny Ludmer, Caldwell Drive
Yael Niv, Franklin Avenue
Andrew Ferencz, Green Street
Marina Rubina, Quarry Street
Melissa Lane, Princeton Avenue
Jeffrey Oakman, Valley Road
Tineke Thio, Dempsey Avenue
Carolyn Jones, Western Way
Andrew Thomas, Edgerstoune Road
Nat Bottigheimer, White Pine Lane
Kirsten Thoft, Linden Lane
Ted Nadeau, Linden Lane
Ohad Mayblum, Dodds Lane
Abel Smith, Leigh Ave
Mia Sacks, Terhune Road
Suzanne Lehrer, Franklin Avenue

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  • reFresh

    Understood & sorry you are challenged to do good. It shouldn’t be that way. The town isn’t supportive of people trying to live simply & sustainably either… If a house is simple & preserved to mindful of resources, the land value gets over-assessed. Ultimately, developers, agents, banks, & the assessor are the ones siphoning any cream off the top of our housing market.

  • TaxPoorInPrinceton

    As a former renter and a current landlord, I want to point out the amount of fees landlords have to pay to the town for the right to rent out the property. I wish I could lower the rent I charge, but between prop. taxes, fees, and the mortgage, it’s hard not to charge what I think is too high for rent.

  • reFresh

    The middle incomers I know well want small, private homes they can purchase & someday own. Living in a kitchenless “flat” without parking, to help Miss Daisy pay her taxes, isn’t on their wish lists. Instead, they dream of 600 to 1600 sq ft, with a kitchen, porch, small yard/garden, space to park a smart car, & maybe even a pet. “Progressive” towns & cities are already building sustainable small home (& tiny home) neighborhoods today, giving hardworking folks full autonomy.
    Young families, those who selflessly serve society with their work, artists, writers, & other fine citizens need to believe that housing dreams will come true here. Take away the possibility of a happy ending & folks may suffer burn out, insomnia, or other stress related health issues.
    Whatever the solution, Princeton’s endangered middle class deserves protection from those in society who plan to over consume & pass the cost of that onto others, from prediatorial landlords, & from developers who overcharge.

  • reFresh

    The middle incomers I know well here want small, private homes they can purchase & someday own. Living in a kitchenless “flat” without parking, to help Miss Daisy pay her taxes, isn’t on their wish lists. Instead, they dream of 600 to 1600 sq ft, with a deck, yard/garden, & space to park a smart car (yes, one tiny car). Not to shock you all, but some middle incomers even want to be pet owners. “Progressive” towns & cities are already building sustainable small home (& tiny home) neighborhoods today, giving hardworking folks full autonomy.
    Young families, those who selflessly serve society with their work, artists, writers, & other fine citizens need to believe that housing dreams will come true here. Take away the possibility of a happy ending & folks may suffer burn out, depression, insomnia, or other stress related health issues.
    Princeton’s endangered middle class deserves protection from those in society who plan to over consume & pass the cost of that onto others, from prediatorial landlords, & from developers who overcharge. Chris Chirstie & his family laying on a “closed” publicly funded beach, and folks who call themselves “progressives” but keep threatening our ability to park one smart car in our own town are examples of the privileged behaviors that deliver pain, or chuckles, or actually both, to Princeton’s very hardworking middle class families.

  • FreshAir

    There were reasons the town center didn’t allow rentable”flats” that could be student rooms & units for private offices/small businesses.

  • FreshAir

    Hi Dan,
    1.flats may be thought undesirable in the town center, given student housing & office needs there. Can’t all create a duplex or condo, if they meet the requirements?
    2. Middle income folks here want small, private homes they can purchase & someday own. Their affordable dream is 600 to 1400 square feet, with a yard or garden, & a place to park a smart car (yes, a car). Truly “progressive” towns & cities are building homes like these (maybe because middle class folks actually sit on their boards or have a voice).
    3. No middle class person I know dreams of driving Miss Daisy then living in her kitchenless, groundless, carless “flat” to help her pay her taxes.
    4. The middle class deserves protection from those in society who want to over consume resources at the expense of others, and from prediatorial landlords and developers who overcharge & underprovide.
    5. Young families, working folks who intentionally choose careers that serve others, artists, writers, & other fine citizens have their own dreams. Take those away and people develop stress related health problems.
    6. Chris Chirstie & family laying on a closed publicly funded beach, and having one’s tiny smart car taken away by “progressives” are examples of twisted realities that are working middle class nightmares.

  • FreshAir

    Hi Dan,
    1. Given Princeton’s large student population, there may be a reason why flats weren’t desirable in the town center.
    2. Middle income people here want smaller independent homes that they can purchase & own. They describe their affordable dreams as 600 to 1200 square feet, with a yard or garden, privacy, and a driveway for their car. They never dream of driving Miss Daisy & living in a kitchenless, groundless, carless “flat” that helps her pay her taxes. They’re young small families, working professionals who have chosen careers that serve the public, & other good citizens with great dreams of their own. These folks deserve protection from forces that want to use their seat to support the needs of those who overspend, and prediatorial landlords or developers. Watching Chris Chirstie laying on an empty beach they can’t drive to is the kind of nightmare that them up at night.

  • Dan D’Menny

    Amazingly, this group is arguing for LESS regulation . . . allowing the market to find a profitable way to serve those who want to live in Princeton a) who don’t have $800k+ to spend on a too-large home; and b) don’t earn less than $65k (depending on family size).

    Splitting lots into multiple dwellings would be a win-win if we are open to densification. That’s precisely what happened on Madison, Park, and even Witherspoon a long time ago . . . before zoning regulations imposed their restrictions on market responses to the desire to live close to downtown Princeton.

  • cloudy2

    I had thought that the boro and township formed one happy or unhappy muni. I’m surprised to hear talk of ‘flats’ being allowed in the township but not in the boro.

    What are the other major differences?
    Do they still have old borders?

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