The Jersey City Council reviewed an ordinance sponsored by Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano amending the Journal Square Redevelopment Plan to include a 10 percent affordable housing mandate at yesterday’s caucus meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“Journal Square needs affordable housing,” Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano declared.
He noted the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO) that makes affordable housing mandatory for new developments is rarely triggered in his ward.
Boggiano further stated that the ordinance would have to get approved by the Planning Board before being voted into law on second reading by the council.
“The Journal Square Community Association is really appreciative of the joint venture we’ve had with the councilman,” said Journal Square Community Association Affordable Housing Task Force Chair Michael Ehrmann said.
“The purpose of this amendment would be to ensure that all new and sub-rehab housing of a certain size would have a share, specifically, 10 percent affordable units. Conforming amendments in the IZO … would have to be made.”
He added that the legislation would apply to buildings with 30 or more units. The local legislation also calls for rent being no more than 30 percent of the adjusted income of the renters. Those parameters would be set for 30 years.
“Because there’s so little of this public support flowing into the neighborhood. No new affordable housing has been built and made available for occupancy in the Journal Square redevelopment area since 2007,” Ehrmann stated, noting many of the existing buildings are at least 40 years old.
He called the current policy a recipe for “guaranteed gentrification of the neighborhood,” therefore, rent restricted housing is needed.
“They want to introduce 30 units to trigger. Why can’t we just keep it at 15 because that is the IZO?” questioned Council President Joyce Watterman.
“We’re also dealing with workforce housing, which isn’t talked about a lot. Why can’t we add 5 percent to this for workforce housing?”
Corporation Counsel Peter Baker noted that affordable housing and/or IZOs have been heavily litigated in the past and that what Boggiano proposed may not be legal.
“Once you start adding in these mandatory requirements, these automatic triggers, I think it definitely affects the um legality of everything,” he explained.
“That causes me great concern about constitutionality and legality based on the current case law.”
Business Administrator John Metro concurred, noting that the ordinance will likely need some additional amendments.
“We’re willing to work with Councilman Boggiano. Usually, affordable mandates are done on bonuses, not on mandates. Essentially, it sets us up for a lawsuit. We’re going to have to amend some stuff as we go through the Planning Board,” he explained.
Ehrmann reiterated that the IZO law has not been working in Journal Square, noting that the Bayfront development has over 20 percent mandatory affordable housing (about 35 percent) and has not been challenged.
He also asserted that Newark established a mandatory provision for affordable housing that has been unchallenged.
“Most of us in this room believe in a bunch of progressive policies that were challenged in court before they went forward,” Ehrmann argued.
“We are not replacing the IZO. We’re saying, at least for this neighborhood, it needs an adjustment. The trigger is not working.”
Ward E Councilman James Solomon respectfully disagreed.
“The Journal Square 2060 plan is zoned with a very high amount of density that allows for these developments to occur with affordable housing in them,” he said.
“We got to get workforce in here. We’re missing an opportunity,” Watterman repeated.
Metro said they’d work with them to pass it, also mentioned that the city owns the Bayfront property, which makes it unique.
“We’re all sitting here today because, in the 1980s, the federal housing subsidy was destroyed. Ever since, everything we do, including IZO … is an effort to uphill,” Ehrmann claimed.
He believes a national housing subsidy program is a better idea.
“We haven’t been able to get back since the Reagan era. That’s why we can’t waste what we have,” Ehrmann added.
“I’ve watched my neighborhood disappear. We’re going to work on this and get something done,” Boggiano stated, noting that school teachers and police officers have been priced out in recent memoru.
“We do believe in affordable housing. I just want that on the record. We really want affordability. And it is costing us more than people can imagine to get it done. People should have a right to stay in the City of Jersey City,” Watterman noted.