NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On July 26, Superior Court Judge Douglas K. Wolfson rejected the notion that thousands of properties in New Jersey worth more than $500,000 could be classified as affordable housing.
It was just one of many questions at issue in a high-stakes case that played out in the Middlesex County Courthouse over the past year.
Back in July 2015, the Township of South Brunswick filed a declaratory action seeking affirmative declaration to confirm the town was practicing ethical opportunities for producing its fair share of low-to-moderate affordable housing.
South Brunswick, as well as several other New Jersey municipalities, partnered with Econsult Solutions, Inc. to provide to the court with a calculation of the state’s need for homes of those income levels.
The case pitted their methodology with that of the Fair Share Housing Center’s, and the traditional methods used by the state’s Council for Affordable Housing (COAH).
Judge Wolfson ultimately rejected the research conducted by Econsult Solutions, Inc. and subsequently accepted the Fair Share Housing Center’s calculations instead.
He criticized Dr. Peter Angelides, Econsult’s principal, stating his testimony of the the state’s housing needs was, “inconsistent with common sense.”
It was Angelides’ methodology that would have resulted in some of the expensive properties being counted as affordable.
Such calculations were based on several factors including Headship Rates, which represented the percentage of the population growth that will result in new households formed based on each age group variable.
During the case, Fair Share attorney Adam Gordon questioned Dr. Angelides’ methodology in determining the headship rate projections, stating, “Did you deviate from what the prior round methodology did as to the headship rate — the headship rate yesterday?”
After a few rebuttals, Angelides concluded, “So, yes.”
It was believed Dr. Angelides selectively chose data that would calculate a decrease prospective need of lower-income housing to support the municipalities’ need to develop more affordable housing.
His calculations showed that 74% of one-person households would go above the median income, despite this approach not being consistent with the Center of Affordable Housing’s methodology.
Judge Wolfson was then able to determine that Dr. Angelides deviated from established law on 26 different occasions to show a lesser need for affordable housing in these municipalities arguing against more affordable housing.
Based in Philadelphia, Econsult was the same company commissioned to produce an “economic impact analysis” of Rutgers University athletics as the school joined the Big Ten Conference in 2014. The company predicted that capital investments in athletic facilities would “increase Rutgers’ athletics reputation and generate economic and fiscal impacts to New Jersey.”
Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center, felt each municipality’s to reduce the need for affordable housing unrealistic, jokingly stating, “Since when could someone earning $30,000 live in a $500,000 mansion?”
The state has made several efforts to abide to the Mount Laurel doctrine which requires each New Jersey’s municipality to effortlessly use their zoning regulations to provide opportunities to produce more affordable housing for low-to-moderate level income households.
Attorneys representing South Brunswick included longtime Township Attorney Donald Sears and Planning Board attorney Benjamin Bucca, a New Brunswick attorney who was recently approved for a Superior Court Judge position.