Bergen Record

By Kevin O’Toole and Paul Aronsohn

Kevin O’Toole, a Republican, represents the 40th legislative district in the state Senate; Paul Aronsohn, a Democrat, is the mayor of Ridgewood.

RECENTLY, the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing established its latest housing regulations. It was a long-awaited attempt to clarify an increasingly complex situation and to provide our communities with clarity on this issue.

While we can spend hours debating the merits of such rules imposed on our municipalities, a housing shortfall must be addressed beyond this new set of COAH rules. This issue poses its own set of moral and practical challenges, as a relentless source of anxiety for many New Jersey families. Specifically, we are talking about our state’s significant shortage of special-needs housing.

Ask any parent of an adult with cognitive, developmental or physical disabilities about housing opportunities and you are likely to get the same concerned look, hear the same compelling plea and feel the same sense of urgency. It is not just a matter of independence for their adult child. It is possibly a matter of life and death, because their adult child may have no place to live once the parents have died.

For them and their children — the literally thousands of people with disabilities waiting on state lists for such housing — the time to act is now.


We must address the housing needs of our most vulnerable, and we must provide towns, such as Ridgewood, with more flexibility to make such housing a reality.

To that end, we have introduced Senate Bill 2132 to allow and encourage municipalities to work together to create regional affordable housing opportunities for adults with special needs. The bill would permit any city or town to transfer up to half of its COAH obligation to another city or town within a 10-mile radius, which would receive 1.5 COAH credits per unit of affordable housing to meet its fair share.

Among other things, this legislation would allow built-out communities – those with no space for additional housing — to help meet the needs of its special-needs residents, but to do so in neighboring towns.

In the past, similar regional contribution agreements have been legal and have been successful in creating thousands of affordable homes for people around the state. This bill is different, however, in that it focuses on people with special needs and includes a 10-mile geographical restriction as a common-sense component to keep such housing and services in close proximity – something that will benefit the communities and the families involved.

Significant step

S-2132 is a significant step toward solving the housing needs of our most vulnerable, and a solution that can provide much needed and much deserved relief to many New Jersey families.

We therefore urge the Legislature to seize this opportunity and act upon this legislation.