Princeton, one of last holdouts in N.J., reaches agreement to build 1,394 units of affordable housing

Princeton approved an agreement to build nearly 1,400 new homes for working families and people with disabilities Wednesday night, ending years of litigation in what was one of last municipalities in the state to reach a housing agreement.

Princeton is the last Mercer County town to reach a settlement with housing advocates and joins about 300 towns across the state that have put plans in place to address the state’s massive housing affordability crisis.

The agreement establishes a fair housing obligation of 1,394 homes and paves the way for the equitable redevelopment of the Princeton Shopping Center, ensuring that 44 affordable family rental units will be developed on the site, which will implement best planning practices, including pedestrian, bicycle and public transit access.

Princeton also has agreed to work with local nonprofit Princeton Community Housing to develop 100% affordable projects to address the town’s housing need, including a plan to redevelop Franklin Avenue and Maple Terrace with a new 80-unit affordable rental project, which will include 11 homes set aside for very low-income residents.

The town will also work with Princeton Community Housing to build 24 new affordable units at the nonprofit’s existing Princeton Community Village development located off Bunn Drive.

The agreement ends years of litigation over Mercer County towns’ fair housing obligations — which led to an important ruling by Superior Court Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson in 2017 recognizing a significant statewide need for affordable housing.

Fair Share Housing Center Executive Director Kevin Walsh said he was happy to complete the deal.

“We are pleased that Princeton has come to the table and reached an agreement with housing and civil rights advocates that will provide new opportunities for working families and people with disabilities in Central Jersey to live close to good schools and jobs,” he said in a statement. “Though negotiations were long and, at times, difficult, this agreement will lead to a stronger and more inclusive Princeton.”

The agreement also ensures that future redevelopment of key areas of the town, including along Nassau Street, include affordable housing to ensure equitable development. And it recognizes the work Princeton, developers and nonprofits have done in recent years to build affordable housing, giving the town 244 units of credit for affordable homes that have been constructed since 1999.

“This agreement represents an important step forward in tackling racial segregation, which divides our communities and locks families of color out of safe neighborhoods, good schools and job opportunities,” Walsh said. “Strong fair housing settlements, such as this one, are one of the most important ways we can confront sustained racial inequality and build a more inclusive future.”

The settlement now goes to Jacobson for approval.