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Sunday, July 21, 2024

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W. Wildwood Nears Affordable Housing Deal

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By Shay Roddy

WEST WILDWOOD – West Wildwood reached a settlement agreement with the Fair Share Housing Center, which will give the borough control over how and where fair housing can be built. A judge will review the agreement at an Oct. 29 hearing.
“If we say no to this, a developer can walk in tomorrow, take over a whole block and buy it, and they can build fair housing there and we can’t do a thing about it,” said Mayor Christopher Fox, at West Wildwood’s Oct. 7 meeting. “This is to protect the borough and, at the same time, maybe create an avenue to have brand new ratables come in and help offset or control the taxes in the borough.”
All municipalities in the state must either comply with fair housing or risk a builder’s remedy or noncompliance lawsuit, according to Borough Solicitor Mary D’Arcy Bittner. 
Bittner explained the agreement’s terms for taxpayers. The borough would be immune to builder’s remedy lawsuits for five years and is obligated to ensure three homes owned by current residents are rehabilitated if needed. 
If the homeowner’s income qualifies and their home is not complying with code, they could get assistance under the Rehabilitation Assistance Program. 
Bittner called the settlement “very fair” because it does not obligate the borough to ensure any fair housing is built. 
“Fair housing is a good thing, and everybody wants it, but the borough is not going to be obligated to ensure that it is here in the municipality,” Bittner said. 
As part of the settlement, in the marina commercial district and the commercial district, the development of up to 20 units per acre would be allowed if the developer complies with fair housing requirements by setting 15% of units aside for rental and 20% for sale. 
In the rest of the borough, if someone creates a development with five or more residential units, they would be required to set aside 15% of units for rentals or 20% for sale. 
As part of the settlement, commissioners will also pass an ordinance instituting a development fee on new construction, which will be 1% of the assessed value of the home. This includes additions to existing structures.
“I know it was a lot of work to get to this point… but the way we’re doing it is the proper way and we’re moving forward with it. It’s beneficial to us to do it this way,” said Fox.  
Judge John C. Porto will likely make a decision on the agreement at the Oct. 29 fairness hearing.
To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com.

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