Mahwah may be the town to decide whether or not a state regulation regarding Affordable Housing is legitimate, thanks to a group of about 150 residents who say they are organizing to sue the township.
The group owns affordable housing units in Mahwah purchased some time in the past 25 years. The homes are coming upon their maturation point, which potentially means that residents could sell them at full market value, as opposed to the COAH-regulated affordable value they’ve been held to for the past quarter century.
Over the past several months, township officials have held meetings informing residents of a state regulation passed in 2004, known as the “95-5” rule, which states that if an affordable housing homeowner sells at full market value, 95% of the difference between the affordable rate and the full-market value, goes to the town’s Affordable Housing fund. According to township attorney Andy Fede, Mahwah’s interpretation of the state regulation is that Mahwah is obligated to enforce it, and that it is retroactive, applying to all of the 25-year-old units in town.
About 150 of the affordable housing unit owners say the rule isn’t fair, and they are willing to go to court to prove it.
“A lot of people have owned these homes for 25 years, and were banking on this money,” resident and affordable housing unit owner Joe Gill told Patch. “We have contracts, and the problem is that you can’t just pull those back.”
Gill says he is no exception. He’s owned his condo in Mahwah for about 10 years. The single dad grew up in the township, and says his unit was recently appraised for $70,000 more than what he would make selling it at its affordable rate.
“We are not talking a few thousand bucks,” he said. “That’s a lot of money. That could be my daughter’s college tuition.”
According to Gill, he and others facing the 95-5 rule are organizing to file a class-action lawsuit against the township. The group has been handing out fliers, knocking on doors, and attempting to spread awareness of the suit in order to get “as many [affected] people as possible to join in,” Gill said.
So far, about 150 are involved, but hundreds more affordable housing unit owners could become involved, he said. However, the group is currently in talks with legal representation, and cannot accept any more defendants to sign onto the suit after the end of the month.
“Once we sign on for this, it’s closed,” Gill said. “So we are trying to find everyone who could be involved now.”
Fede said Wednesday he could not comment further on the matter because potential litigation against the township is involved.
Mayor Bill Laforet said after three recent Affordable Housing Commission meetings discussing the 95-5 rule with residents, he was expecting the lawsuit.
“The only way to get this decided is by a judge,” he said Wednesday. “We are not objecting to that. We’ve been encouraging residents to get organized.”
Residents can get more information about the class action lawsuit by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Chris Davey at 926 Juniper Way.