On March 8, the town of Princeton was ordered by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson to build 753 new affordable houses. According to Jacobson’s ruling, these units must be constructed by 2025.
“We are gratified to read in the press Fair Share Housing’s positive statements about Judge Jacobson’s ruling. We agree that the housing obligation number found for Princeton is reasonable,” explained Princeton mayor Liz Lempert in statements sent to The Daily Princetonian.
“We look forward to moving on to the planning and building process as part of our continuing commitment to Affordable Housing. We are working on putting forward a sustainable, smart growth plan,” Lempert said.
In the statement, Lempert also mentioned other affordable housing projects that the town has been involved with.
“Princeton has long been committed to building affordable housing, and this commitment shows in the fact that we have already made significant progress in meeting the obligation set by the court through projects such as Avalon Bay, Merwick Stanworth, and others," Lempert said.
Additionally, Lempert discussed how further development of affordable housing would benefit the town community.
“The obligation number set by Judge Jacobson is well within the range of what we were expecting, and we feel confident we will be able to present a plan to the court that meets that obligation, adds needed diversity, and energizes our local economy through smart growth planning,” Lempert’s statement concluded.
Lempert declined to comment further.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Dudley Sipprelle, chairman of the Princeton Republican Committee, voiced concerns about the ruling in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
Sipprelle called it a “one-size-fits-all formula pushed on communities without regard to their specificities.” According to Sipprelle, the ruling is lamentable and off-track.
He expressed skepticism about the judge’s capacity to make a decision for Princeton, citing her lack of familiarity with the local community, as well as the lack of public information regarding the process behind her decision.
“Nobody says that housing shouldn’t be affordable, but what this means varies from community to community,” he said. “Princeton’s limited land space makes the values very high. People would like to have affordable housing here, but the fault really lies with the state legislature. They abrogated their responsibility to reform, leaving everything to judges.”
He claimed that the land developers themselves, instead of the residents, would benefit from this decision, as they will be reimbursed with more than the market rate for the houses. He argued that, instead, the state legislature ought to be responsible for coming up with a better alternative.
He added that rising taxes disadvantage the local black community, whose members currently face greater challenges finding affordable housing in Princeton due to rising property taxes. This challenge will only increase as non-Princeton residents are eligible for affordable housing in town.
“The town’s black community has lived here for centuries, and are now being forced out of the community,” Sipprelle said. “State law says that anyone is eligible to apply for affordable housing. What about our citizens, our community? They have to move out of the community.”