From the Daily Record:
Extra room at home could bring big bucks
BY TOM BALDWIN
Check your mail. The folks at town hall might want to give you $20,000.
Growing numbers of New Jersey municipalities, including Long Hill, offer residents attractive sums to create, or perhaps rehabilitate, apartment space on erstwhile single-family residential properties, with the goal of providing required affordable housing for low-income households.
Homeowners with a garage with some living space, or a walk-up flat out above the horse stalls may qualify in this program that underscores one of New Jersey’s pressing issues — too many people in a state divided by haves and have-nots.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine has said he wants to provide 100,000 more units of affordable housing in New Jersey over the next 10 years. One might wonder if alpine Watchung, with its newly minted wealth and shimmering views of Manhattan, is the sort of place Corzine had in mind.
The Watchung handbill is eye-catching. “Attention Borough Homeowners. You may be eligible for a $20,000 grant to develop an affordable accessory apartment on your property. No repayment required.”
There are clauses. “Owner agrees to limit rental for first 10 years, to an income-eligible tenant, chosen from a waiting list developed by the borough, charging rents no higher than the state standard for affordable units.”
One resident scanned the letter and wondered, “Will I be celebrating Hungarian Independence Day with 200 strangers in my yard for the next 10 years, or will I have a single, working mother who could become my friend?”
“We have had an ‘accessory-apartment’ program since the mid- to late 1990s,” Olsen said. “So far, so good. We’ll have 10, and we are going for our second round of 10. They (renters) have to go through an income-verification process. There is a draw, and the owners get to interview them as well.”
While Watchung offers a 10-year agreement, West Amwell’s is 30 years.
“It’s either do something or send money out,” Olsen said, noting municipalities can pay other communities to shoulder the first community’s obligation to provide housing for the less well-off. The export price is $35,000 per unit.