Fact check follow-up: Affordable units at AvalonBay’s Thanet development (Avalon Princeton Circle)

A video excerpt of the discussion during the Jan. 22, 2024 Princeton Council meeting about how many affordable units are at Avalon Princeton Circle.

Readers have brought to our attention that some elected officials have been telling members of the public that our reporting in our Monday fact-check story about the number of affordable units at AvalonBay’s Thanet apartment development, Avalon Princeton Circle, is incorrect.

Our fact check story stems from the Jan. 22 Princeton Council meeting where a resident who lives in an affordable unit at AvalonBay’s Witherspoon apartment development asked the council how many affordable units there are at Avalon’s development at Thanet.

The woman’s friend was looking for an affordable place to live. An employee at Avalon Witherspoon told her there were 12 units at Avalon’s Thanet development. The resident said she then went over to the new development and was told that there were only five or six affordable units at Avalon’s Thanet complex. The woman told the Princeton Council she was surprised because she thought every multi-family development in the municipality must set aside 20% of units as affordable. She asked the council how many affordable units there actually were at the new Avalon complex.

“Who is telling the right story? What is the right number of apartments that are affordable over there at Thanet Avalon?” the resident asked the council.

The resident did not ask how many units were at the overall Thanet site, which includes a separate affordable senior development, or how many affordable housing credits the affordable units at Avalon Princeton Circle generate. She wanted to know, as a practical matter, how many affordable apartment units there are at the new Avalon complex. She also expressed her opinion that it is important to have a decent percentage of affordable units at one location because it fosters a supportive community among affordable renters.

Council member Michelle Pirone Lambros said 10% of the Avalon Princeton Circle units are affordable units. Council member Mia Sacks said that Avalon Princeton Circle development, combined with the municipal PIRHL senior housing project called Princeton Senior Living, totaled 33.4% affordable units when the two projects are combined. She said Avalon Princeton Circle had five special needs units and “three multi-family” units.

We reported that Princeton Avalon Circle has 11 affordable units, and we stand by our reporting. The total number of units at Avalon Princeton Circle is 221 units. Eleven of the 221 apartment units are affordable units, or about 5% of the total number of apartment units.

Five of the apartment units are for people with disabilities, and each of those five apartment units has three bedrooms. The municipality receives extra affordable housing credit bonuses for each of the units for people with disabilities, but the number of apartment units is five units.

Only six of the apartment units at Avalon Princeton Circle are regular or so-called “family” affordable units. One of the six regular affordable units is a one-bedroom unit, three apartments are two-bedroom units, and two apartments are three-bedroom units.

A memorandum of understanding the Princeton Council voted on in Dec. of 2019 specified how many affordable apartment units would be at the AvalonBay complex at Thanet, per the municipal officials’ negotiations with AvalonBay. We have downloaded that memorandum for members of the public who want to read the source document.

Relevant excerpts from the memorandum:

AvalonBay shall construct a 221-unit residential development with two hundred ten (210) market rate units and eleven (11) affordable units, along with related improvements (“AvalonBay Development”). AvalonBay will also subdivide an
approximately 2.1 or greater acre portion of the Property (the “Parcel”) that is adequate and developable for the municipal project (as hereinafter defined), and which boundaries will be determined and delineated by mutual agreement of the parties during the redevelopment planning process, and dedicate the Parcel to Princeton for the development of a municipally sponsored, age-restricted, 100% affordable housing development (“Municipal Project”).

The AvalonBay Development shall contain eleven (11) designated affordable
housing units (the “Affordable Units”) that shall be deed-restricted for very low,
low or moderate-income households.

i. Of the eleven (11) Affordable Units, six (6) shall be “family” units with the
following bedroom distribution: (1) one-bedroom unit, three (3) two-bedroom units, and two (2) three-bedroom units. A “family” unit means
that the unit is available to the general very low, low, and moderate-income
population and is not restricted to a certain segment of that population such
as restrictions based on age or disability.

ii. Of the six “family” Affordable Units, one (1) unit (a three-bedroom unit)
will be reserved for very low-income households (30% of the area median
income (“AMI”)), two (2) units will be reserved for low-income households
(less than 50% of AMI), and three (3) units will be reserved for moderate
income households (less than 80% of AMI). Other than as set forth above,
the family Affordable units shall comply with the requirements of the
Uniform Housing Affordability Controls (“UHAC”).

iii. Five (5) Affordable Units shall be special needs units (“Special Needs
Units”). Each of the five (5) of the Special Needs Units shall have three
bedrooms. AvalonBay shall contract with and/or lease these units to a duly
qualified non-profit, which will be responsible for the management of these
special needs units and the placement of tenants. Princeton shall facilitate
and assist AvalonBay’s efforts to identify a duly qualified non-profit to
manage these units, and AvalonBay will not be responsible for the
qualification of or placement of tenants into the Special Needs Units.

An ordinance supporting AvalonBay’s application for a long-term PILOT agreement was approved by the Princeton Council in 2020. We have downloaded the ordinance for members of the public who want to read it.

A revised ordinance supporting AvalonBay’s application for a long-term PILOT agreement was approved by the Princeton Council in 2021. We also have downloaded that ordinance for members of the public who want to read it.

In April of 2021, the Princeton Council approved the financial agreement for long-term tax exemption for AvalonBay’s apartment development at Thanet. We also have downloaded that financial agreement, which was included in the Princeton Council agenda packet, so that members of the public who would like to review the agreement can do so. Scroll to page 45 of the pdf for the text of the agreement.

The relevant excerpt of the agreement about the annual service charge to that is paid to the municipality in lieu of property taxes:

(a) Stage One: From the ASC (annual service charge) Commencement Date until the tenth (10th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date, the Annual Service Charge shall be 11% of AGR;

(b) Stage Two: From the first day after the tenth (10th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date until the fifteenth (15th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date, the Annual Service Charge shall be equal to the greater of 11% of AGR (annual gross revenue) or twenty (20%) percent of the amount of the taxes otherwise due on the value of the Property and the Improvements;

(c) Stage Three: From the first day after the fifteenth (15th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date until the twentieth (20th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date, the Annual Service Charge shall be equal to the greater of 11% of AGR or forty (40%) percent of the amount of the taxes otherwise due on the value of the Property and the Improvements;

(d) Stage Four: From the first day after the twentieth (20th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date until the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date, the Annual Service Charge shall be equal to the greater of 11% of AGR or sixty (60%) percent of the amount of the taxes otherwise due on the value of the Property and the Improvements;

(e) Final Stage: From the first day after the twenty-fifth (25th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date until the thirtieth (30th) anniversary of the ASC Commencement Date, the Annual Service Charge shall be equal to the greater of 11% of AGR or eighty (80%) percent of the amount of the taxes otherwise due on the value of the Property and the Improvements.

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2 Comments

  1. Good work, Krystal. This is what local journalism is all about! I’m so glad you’re doing this deep dive investigative work.

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