Mayor proves American cities can advance mixed-income and affordable housing redevelopment…if they honestly want to

In a bold attempt to help solve his city’s affordable housing crisis, Steven M. Fulop—the mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey—joined the Division of City Planning on July 8, 2022 to announce the creation of the Affordable Housing Overlay.

The Overlay is designed to incentivize and grow affordable housing citywide through the voluntary redevelopment or rehabilitation of residential and mixed-use properties.

Developments built pursuant to this Overlay will now be required to provide on-site affordable housing at ratios of 10% or 15% of the total units, with larger affordability requirements for development in upper-income areas.

The new mandate will add affordable housing opportunities into existing zoning by allowing more units inside a building without adding to the building’s footprint.

This is the second major mechanism we’ve introduced in less than one year to significantly increase access to affordable housing in Jersey City,” said Mayor Fulop.

We have worked to find innovative approaches that generate more affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families while also incentivizing investment and key development away from the waterfront. This Overlay expands beyond what the IZO can already do and will create affordability at all scales of development,” he added.

In November 2021, Mayor Fulop introduced the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO) to address areas of concentrated wealth along with concentrated poverty by requiring developments receiving either a variance or a zoning amendment to be inclusive of mixed-income communities.

As a part of the first phase of the Jersey City Master Plan implementation, the Overlay will amend the City’s zoning ordinance allowing a property owner or developer to build out their full envelope.

However, the building will remain the same height, setback, and coverage standards permitted through existing zoning laws.

Each development will be bound by the area’s Income Census Tracts, as follows:

  • Tier 1 – Developments below 120% of area median income (AMI) in Low, Moderate, or Middle Income Census Tracts will require a minimum of 10% affordable housing on-site.
  • Tier 2 – Developments above 120% AMI in Upper Income Census Tracts will require a minimum of 15% affordable housing on-site.

The Overlay serves as an incentive for developers to voluntarily create more affordable units by allowing extra density and reducing the amount of regulatory processes. Developments using this Overlay will be able to seek approval before the Planning Board, rather than needing to go to the City Council for a rezoning or the Zoning Board for variances,” said City Planning Director Tanya Marione.

To further boost future affordable housing, set-aside calculations for Affordable Housing Overlay that result in a fractional affordable unit of less than one-half will require the developer to provide a payment in lieu of the fractional unit. Anything over one-half will be rounded up.

The payment is calculated based on a pro-rata basis of $180,000.00 per unit or a minimum of $36,000.00, whichever is greater. All funds will go directly to the Jersey City Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

In no instance can this Overlay lower an affordable housing set-aside required as part of a mandatory affordable housing requirement or part of a bonus of a redevelopment plan.

City Planning will present the Affordable Housing Overlay at the Planning Board meeting on July 26, 2022.

Image of jersey City via Pixabay.

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