Construction Photo
Construction Photo by Ron Leir

Councilman-at-large and former Fulop ally Rolando Lavarro is panning an affordable housing plan announced this morning by Mayor Fulop and City Council President Joyce Watterman. “No matter how you cut it, the council president and mayor are trying to pull a fast one. They will try to spin this like they are the champions of Jersey City cost-burdened worker families.  The reality is they are selling them out with this ordinance,” said Lavarro in a press release drafted shortly after the administration’s announcement.

According to Lavarro, a compromise inclusionary zoning ordinance (“IZO”) had been in the works and had the tentative support of the council. That plan would have required developments with more than 10 units to set-aside 20% of the units as affordable for at least 65 years. It also allows for developers to build up to 10% of the affordable units off-site albeit under strict conditions. The compromise was to be considered at this week’s caucus.

In contrast, according to Lavarro, the administration’s new IZO announced in a press release this morning allows the council to reduce a developer’s affordable housing obligation below 20% and provides a mechanism by which a developer can arbitrarily waive the IZO requirement entirely.

“To call the ordinance that the Fulop Administration has introduced “developer-friendly” is an enormous understatement. It is a developer’s dream,” Councilman Lavarro went on to say, “Despite the outcry from the community along with glaring and mounting evidence that shows that Jersey City is in an affordable housing crisis, Mayor Fulop is yet again kowtowing to developers, placing developer profits over the needs of Jersey City’s working poor and middle class.” 

Unsurprisingly, Mayor Fulop sees things differently. “With this ordinance, we are going to take our construction to the next level by forcing developers to include more affordable housing in their projects,” he said in a press release announcing the plan.

According to the administration, nearly 40% of Jersey City’s households are cost burdened, defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as paying more than 30% of one’s income towards housing. “The Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance looks to promote the establishment of appropriate population densities and concentrations that will contribute to the overall well-being of our communities” according to the administration press release.

The administration ordinance will purportedly require the new provisions to be followed by residential developers with projects over 15 residential units that are requesting 5 or more additional units or an additional 5,000 square feet of residential floor area through a redevelopment plan amendment or a variance. It provides that affordable housing units be set aside for households with combined income brackets at 30%, 50%, and 80% of the annual median income (AMI) — $20,150, $33,583 and  $53,733 respectively.

Said Council President Watterman, “Everyone, regardless of income or age deserves an affordable and safe place to live, and this ordinance looks to protect our most vulnerable populations by requiring developers to incorporate affordable housing going forward.”

Ward E Councilman James Solomon, however, is largely in agreement with Lavarro. “At the end of the day [the administration’s ordinance] is too flexible for developers…they can get around the affordability requirements by adding a parking deck.”

The IZO will go in front of the City Council this Wednesday, October 7, 2020.

Aaron is a writer, musician and lawyer. Aaron attended Berklee College of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Aaron served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. He received a J.D....

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