Franklin Township News Vincent Dominach, Jr., Director of Economic Development for Franklin Township, was a guest speaker at a recent CORE Government Affairs Committee meeting, at which he provided the following information and news for area Realtors:
1. By next year, most likely during the first quarter of 2020, a cursory inspection is expected to be required prior to all residential transfers in Franklin Township, in order to protect homebuyers. Dominach stressed that the inspection would not be “over-zealous” and would be limited to looking at the number of bedrooms, any ridiculous code violations, checking for open permits and outstanding fines, not to look for a fence or closet added without a permit or if the lawn is mowed. He said the need for this cursory inspection is the result of some attorneys not doing their due diligence checking for outstanding permits and fines, and flippers, who are notorious about not obtaining critical permits and leaving behind fines for unsuspecting homebuyers. He noted that Franklin has lots of permits – for example Franklin had 40 percent of all single family building permits during the financial crisis. He added that Franklin Township offers an amnesty almost every year to fix permit and code issues saying, “We don’t want to fine you if you cooperate. The law requests that we fine for code and permit violations but we also have the discretionary authority to waive some, all, or none of the fines. He asked for assistance from the CORE Association of Realtors to alert our members to this new inspection requirement prior to transfer. It was also noted that conveyancing attorneys will need to know about these new inspections, and Realtors could be of help with alerting those involved in transactions.
2. Housing affordability is the topic of much discussion, and Franklin Township doesn’t want to risk a so-called builder’s remedy, whereby the courts step in and force high density that may not be a good fit with the surrounding area. Franklin Township is working to meet its targets and is actually ahead of affordable housing targets for age-restricted housing – which doesn’t automatically count toward affordability targets, but they had a real need, so approved a number of age-restricted projects. Some other municipalities “roll the dice” and don’t work to achieve affordability targets, thereby risking a builder’s remedy. Franklin had some high-density areas and raised the density there to help make their affordability targets, and Franklin also gets money from some developers in lieu of providing affordable units, which is used to help subsidize affordability at other projects. He added that, in a redevelopment area, a municipality gets double credit for every affordable unit created. Franklin Township has satisfied its affordable housing need and has Court approval of its plan. Both the Court and Fair Share Housing agreed Franklin was a shining example of how a municipality should provide affordable housing.
3. Warehouse space is particularly “hot,” due to ecommerce, and that basically, by the time they’re in the ground, they’re leased up. In reply to a question, he said that municipalities can’t deny projects due to the traffic impact, but can require mitigation efforts.
4. Rutgers is having a housing crunch and freshmen can’t be assured of obtaining on-campus housing. Lots of student housing is being built, and it’s anticipated that at least 500 units will be built within three years.
5. Not much land is left in Franklin Township for large, residential development projects.