The Woodbridge Planning Board will be considering several amendments Wednesday night to municipal land use laws that would enable the township to start developing more than 900 housing units and finally comply with the NJ Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) requirements.
But Tuesday night, the Township Council went into some detail at their meeting about one aspect of the town's plan to meet COAH requirements: a program to snap up foreclosed properties and redevelop them into 300 units of low cost housing.
"It's a great program. It's several wins across the board," said Business Administrator Robert Landolfi.
The program, to be done in conjunction with the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA), would have the town purchase foreclosed properties, rehabilitate them, and find buyers who "fit the demographic," Landolfi said, that would satisfy COAH requirements.
Buying up the houses would be "cost neutral," Landolfi said.
"There would be no long-term cash outlay. We won't be landlords. [The program] is not structured that way," he said when asked where the money for the foreclosure purchases would be coming from.
Landolfi mentioned that the initial purchases might be funded through bonding, but that the money for buying the properties, and any renovations that needed to be made, would be recouped by charging against the $3.94 million Woodbridge has vested in the state's Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF).
Woodbridge is one of the municipalities that has until July 17 to make plans on spending the money, or losing it to the state, according to Gov. Chris Christie. The governor intends to make use of the funds - part of $169 million in unspent AHTF money statewide - by using it on housing programs not necessarily related to COAH.
Councilman James Carroll noted that there are bills moving through the state legislature that would extend the AHTF deadline by another four years.
The council, though, wasn't letting any grass grow under its feet. They passed an ordinance Tuesday night that amended the township's municipal code on abandoned properties. The changes would create the position of a Public Officer who would be charged with compiling a list of abandoned properties throughout the township.
Those properties addressed in the amended ordinance included places "unsuitable for occupancy" where construction may have begun but wasn't completed, or not touched in at least six months.
It was unclear whether the council was considering adding abandoned housing, once refurbished, to the list of properties to be used for the COAH housing stock.
Council President Gregg Ficarra admitted the foreclosure plan was a work in progress.
"We are at the very early stages" of the process, Ficarra said.
Avenel resident Tom Maras wanted to know if in acquiring foreclosed properties whether the township would be competing with realtors and developers.
"Most private industries don't do well against [the resources of] government," Maras said.
Landolfi said there'd be no competition with private companies for the properties.
After screening potential buyers and coming up with appropriate COAH-qualifying housing, he said, "any differential between what a buyer would pay [and what the township spent] would be charged back to the trust fund."
The properties, Landolfi added, "would be marketed in the community."
Maras warned that there would be no way the township could be assured that the COAH housing would go to people who already live in the township.
The Woodbridge Planning Board is soliciting public comments on the COAH land use amendments. That meeting is tonight, 7 pm, in the Town Council chamber.