By Brian X. McCrone
With little fanfare, one of New Jersey's most controversial public agencies, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) released in late April its third-ever town-by-town report on where affordable housing is needed.
The report is called "Third Round Substantive Rules," which can be translated from state-regulatory-speak to "New Affordable Housing Requirements."
Mingled within hundreds of pages of legal jargon about what is and isn't an affordable housing unit, what has and hasn't been built, and where in New Jersey remains suitable space for units that should be built are data that show exactly how many units each town owes.
The problem is that nowhere does COAH provide a single figure for each town. Instead, for reasons unexplained, it breaks down affordable housing requirements for each town into three separate categories: 1. Unanswered Prior Obligation; 2. Total Rehabilitation Share; and 3. Projected Required Share.
Philly.com, however, has compiled the three categories into one database following a Right To Know request to COAH for searchable data sets. The new unified set gives a single figure for every town in New Jersey: what they owe and/or what they've built beyond what they owe. (Hat tip to my colleague Emily Babay for once again digging into the data for me.)
A survey of every municipality in Camden, Burlington and Gloucester counties shows what Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey described — after seeing Philly.com's data — as reflecting "the high degree of class segregation across local communities in South Jersey."
"Unsurprisingly, the places with the greatest projected unmet needs for affordable housing are the more affluent suburbs in the region whereas those with a relative oversupply of affordable housing are areas that are already poor," Massey said in an email.
Whether these newest figures ever become legally binding remains to be seen, though a COAH spokeswoman pointed to a recent state Supreme Court order that would require towns to use the document as a blueprint for future development and protest to the court if, essentially, they have a problem with the required units as towns go ahead with future developments.
Below are the 10 municipalities in Camden, Gloucester, and Burlingtown counties required to build the most affordable housing units by 2024, followed by the 10 municipalities that have already built the most units beyond what the state required.