Updated: Township Prepares Plan To Provide For Affordable Housing


Mark Healey, the township’s director of planning, has submitted the proposed fair share housing plan to the Planning Board for its approval.

Update: The township Planning Board on May 20 approved the plan, which now goes before the Township Council for its approval.

A developer wishing to build a 600-unit housing development off Bunker Hill Road has objected to the plan, saying the township erred in its calculation of its affordable housing obligation.

This is a developing story.

Original Story: The township will exceed its state-mandated obligation to provide for low- and moderate-income housing through 2025 under a plan planners hope passes judicial muster in the months to come.

The township’s housing element and fair share plan – an amendment to the township’s Master Plan – goes before the Planning Board for approval at its May 20 meeting.

The plan, created by Mark Healey, the township’s director of planning, notes that Franklin will claim 1,348 “credits” toward its suggested obligation of 1,ooo affordable units.

Those credits come through for-sale units already constructed, units that are being rehabilitated, rental units and housing units that are not yet constructed, but for which approvals have been granted, according to the plan.

Once the Planning Board signs off on it, the plan goes to the Township Council for its endorsement, then, presumably, on to state Superior Court for a declarative judgment that the plan satisfies the township’s affordable housing obligation.

The process by which towns must now have their affordable housing plans certified is new, having been arrived at in March by the state Supreme Court. The court acted when it was asked to rule in light of the state Council on Affordable Housing’s failure to set updated regulations – known as “third round” regulations – that would determine towns’ affordable housing obligations.

Previously, towns would apply to COAH for “substantive certification” of their fair share plans.

Under the Supreme Court’s March 10 ruling, towns will have until July 10 to go to superior courts for the declarative actions, which would protect them from so-called “builder’s remedy” lawsuits.

A builder’s remedy suit could result in a town being forced to approve a housing development at a density greater than that which the underlying zoning permits.

Township planners based the fair share plan on the number of affordable units for which the township is obligated to provide, calculated by a report submitted to the Supreme Court by the Fair Share Housing Center, a Cherry Hill-based housing advocacy group which prompted the March decision. Healey noted that the township will “demur or defer” to the report’s findings regarding Franklin, but still reserves the right to challenge those findings in court.

Franklin will exceed its affordable housing obligation through 2025 as follows, according to the plan:

  • 1,001 affordable units
  • 250 “bonus credits,” awarded for the creation of certain types of housing
  • 97 units which represent a surplus from the township’s prior obligation.

According to the plan, 753 of the 1,001 affordable units have already been built and are occupied by very low-, low- and moderate-income residents, while another 208 units have approvals. Some of those 208 units are already under construction.

The remaining 40 units “are zoned for the proposed developments and have necessary agreements in place that address the obligation to provide affordable housing,” according to the plan.

In the previous round of certifications, overseen by COAH, the township’s obligation was set at 766 units, according to the plan. That obligations were exceeded as well, with the township providing for 723 units and claiming 140 bonus credits.


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