Jersey City and Fair Share Housing Center propose new inclusionary zoning ordinance

Proposed ordinance would mandate 10-15 percent affordable housing with no opt-outs for developers

A new inclusionary zoning ordinance in Jersey City would mandate at least 10-15 percent of affordable housing in new developments.
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A new inclusionary zoning ordinance in Jersey City would mandate at least 10-15 percent of affordable housing in new developments.

Jersey City and the Fair Share Housing Center have announced a new inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require developments to have a minimum of 10 to 15 percent of affordable housing and contains no opt-outs for developers to avoid doing so.

The amount of affordable housing required is based on the income census tracts in which the development is created. Developments in low, moderate, and middle income census tracts would have a minimum of 10 percent of affordable housing, and developments in upper income census tracts would have 15 percent.

Low tracts are defined as those below 50 percent of area median income, moderate tracts are between 50 to 80 percent of median income, middle tracts are between 80 to 120 percent of median income, and upper income are at or above 120 percent of median income.

Developments that get a tax credit from Jersey City must provide 15 percent of affordable housing, and those that get credits or support from the state of New Jersey must provide 20 percent.

There are no opt-outs for developments to avoid creating affordable housing. The only exemptions are for those with less than 15 residential units, or if they’re by the Jersey City Housing Authority or a non-profit corporation creating 50 percent of units for very-low to moderate income households.

“This affordable housing ordinance aligns directly with our efforts to create an equitable and inclusive City, where our most vulnerable residents have the support and resources they need for enhanced quality of life,” said Mayor Steve Fulop in a statement.

The new zoning ordinance comes after a year of wrangling between the Jersey City government and advocates over the city’s affordable housing situation, and had been a hot topic in this year’s municipal elections.

Last year, the city adopted a zoning ordinance that mandated 20 percent of affordable housing, but it received pushback for containing loopholes to allow developers to ignore the mandate. The loopholes ranged from providing community givebacks, building off-site affordable housing, allowing the council to entirely waive the ordinance’s provisions, or paying an amount per mandated unit to the city’s affordable housing trust fund.

The Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit that defends housing rights of the poor in New Jersey, sued the city over the controversial ordinance last December, and ultimately came out victorious after Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula overturned it in August, ruling that it violated New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law.

Since then, the city and the FSHC worked together to create a new zoning ordinance, which the FSHC says is a step in the right direction.

“Once enacted and enforced, the ordinance will provide much-needed affordable homes integrated into new development for working families of all sizes and income levels in Jersey City, said Adam Gordon, executive director of Fair Share Housing Center, in a statement.

Councilman Rolando Lavarro, who has advocated for affordable housing and opposed last year’s ordinance, showed tepid support for the new one and called it an improvement. “That being said, I want to hear from the public as I think most Jersey City working families believe we can do better than the 15 percent minimum set aside in the upper income downtown areas,” he said in a statement.

Lavarro had proposed a zoning ordinance that mandated 20 percent of affordable housing without buyouts, but it was voted down by the City Council in September.

The ordinance will be introduced at the next City Council meeting on Nov. 29. The city will look to adopt the new ordinance before the end of this year.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.