Summit on the forefront of affordable housing

SUMMIT, NJ — On Monday, Oct. 1, a fairness hearing was held in Elizabeth about the Fair Share Housing Center agreement with the city of Summit. According to an Oct. 27 press release from the city, at its Oct. 5 meeting, Common Council unanimously approved a settlement agreement with Fair Share Housing Center to establish additional affordable housing in Summit. The settlement agreement is the result of negotiations between attorneys for the city and the FSHC, and will provide incentives for private developers to construct additional housing without the use of city funds.

“It is a strong priority to establish housing for current and prospective residents at varying income levels and all stages of life,” Summit Mayor Nora Radest said in the press release. “We want to promote diversity, encourage young families to move here and make it affordable for retirees to downsize and stay. This agreement is an important step forward for Summit and an integral part of our 10-year implementation plan for affordable housing.”

“Department of Community Services Director Paul Cascais attended a hearing on Oct. 31 on the settlement agreement between the City of Summit and the Fair Share Housing Center,” Public Information Officer Amy Cairns told LocalSource in an email. “Judge Camille Kenny presided over the hearing, approving the settlement agreement. Judge Kenny lauded Summit for the negotiation of ‘an exemplary plan.’ The next step is a compliance hearing on April 17 in NJ Superior Court.”

Cascais spoke to LocalSource about the settlement between the two parties, and Summit’s plans to build affordable housing.

“We opted to settle with Fair Share Housing Center because we knew that going to trial would cost the city a lot more money,” Cascais told LocalSource over the phone. “The judge assigned a court-appointed master to act as a mediator between us. Phil Caton was our court-appointed master. Mr. Caton explained the terms of agreement and presented the exemplary plan. The judge commended both parties for working well together and being cooperative.”

The city plans to move forward rather quickly as there is a narrow timeline. Cascais explained what would happen in the next part of the process.
“The next step would be to draft the housing element and fair share plan,” Cascais told LocalSource over the phone. “The public would have the opportunity to weigh in on the proposed plan. Once it’s approved, it’s provided to the governing body for endorsement. This would take place at a council meeting. They would have the opportunity to comment, read and endorse the plan if they agree upon it. This would also include the spending plan.”

The City of Summit has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund and has been in the forefront of affordable housing.

“The plan will determine how the money in the trust fund will be spent,” said Cascais. “The governing body controls the spending plan. We have a tight time frame and this is a public process. Approvals must be completed by Feb. 2017.”
“The plan is to build about 50 affordable housing units in the next 10 years,” Councilman Mike McTernan told LocalSource.

Cascais also mentioned some of the people that might benefit from the new affordable housing units that will be built in Summit.

“Affordable housing is not just for low-income housing,” Cascais told LocalSource. “We need affordable housing for retired people who are on a fixed income and want to remain in the area. There are also young people that aren’t earning high salaries and want to live in the area. We need to accommodate the needs of everyone.”

The zoning laws will be adjusted so that redevelopment opportunities include affordable housing.

“Summit has a long history of creating affordable housing solutions for citizens,” Summit Mayor Nora Radest told LocalSource in an email. “With the dissolution of the Council on Affordable Housing, Summit needed to renegotiate an agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center. In this new agreement, Summit will try to add 50 additional affordable housing units in redevelopment projects over the next 10 years. This is an important way for Summit to provide housing options for people in all stages of life and circumstances.”