Town sides with outraged residents after condo tries hiking fees 300%
By Dave Hutchinson
24 August 2016
The common element maintenance fees
for 40 affordable units in this 250 unit townhouse complex have been
subsidized by the majority of the unit owners for the last 36 years.
Either now, or in four years time, the subsidies will end.
The residents in the affordable units say they will not be able to pay the increase in fees.
This is a dilemma that may face the residents of all subsidized condo units once the units stop being subsidized.
The Cedar Brook
at Branchburg condominium association has proposed a nearly 300 percent
increase in the association fees of affordable unit residents while
market rate unit will receive a decrease. (Photos by Dave Hutchinson |
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
The Township Committee has sided with residents of affordable-housing
units in a picturesque condominium community who are outraged over a
proposed increase of nearly 300 percent in their association fees.
If the increase is allowed, association fees being paid by residents in
affordable units would go from $94 per month to $188.50 in 2017 to
$281.32 in 2018. Conversely, the fees being paid by the 210 market rate
units will decrease from $317.00 per month to $299.00 in 2017 to
$281.32 in 2018, according to information provided by residents in an
In July, the Cedar Brook at Branchburg Condominium Association sent a
letter to residents of the 40 Affordable Income Housing Units informing
them that their units aren't being properly assessed pursuant to
current state regulations.
a 30-year charter
But when the condominiums were sold beginning in July 1992, the
township and developer K Hovnanian entered into a 30-year charter in
which 40 of the 250 units would be set aside as affordable units and
association fees of those units couldn't be raised without the township
approval, said Gregory J. Bonin, Township Administrator.
Residents are concerned. We
can't afford this.
"We asked the board members what would they do if they were facing such
an increase in their fees and they didn't have an answer," said Max
Stepanchenko, who owns an affordable unit. "Residents are concerned. We
can't afford this."
Karen Miller, an attorney with Mcgovern Legal Services, LLC, which
represents Cedar Brook, said the association wants to raise the fees to
be in compliance with the Uniform Housing Affordability Controls
the regulations were amended
On Dec. 20, 2004, the regulations were amended to provide that there
should be no distinction in assessments between affordable units and
market rate units.
The condominium association is seeking to amend its Master Deed and Bylaws to comply with the law, said Miller.
However, the regulations also state that any units built before Oct. 1,
2001 can maintain their current agreement written in an ordinance
regarding fees. Cedar Brook has a Master Deed and Bylaws, not an
Residents feel that there not being an ordinance as oppose to a Master
Deed and Bylaws is a loophole that the association is trying to exploit
in order to raise their fees, said Stepanchenko.
"The township committee is not in favor of an increase," said Bonin. "A
lot of these residents are on a fixed income. They're living in an
affordable unit because they can't afford a regular unit and its
In a letter to the condo association, resident Daniel Payne wrote that
a nearly $200 monthly increase would be "better allocated to managing
my wife's Multiple Sclerosis, my neighbor's son's Autism, or helping to
keep my elderly neighbor in her own home instead of senior care."
families pay 33-and-a-third percent of the
assessed market rate unit's association fees
Under the current agreement, the Master Deed on file with the township
clerk's office and the Bylaws of Cedar Brook complex give low-income
families relief by allowing them to pay 33-and-a-third percent of the
assessed market rate unit's association fees, said Bonin.
The condominium association board had scheduled a vote at its Aug. 10
meeting to amend portions of the condominium's Master Deed and By-Laws
to raise the association fees but complaints from residents and the
intervention of the township forced the cancellation of that meeting,
Under the current agreement, the condominium association can't raise
the fees of Affordable Unit residents until 2022. Miller said the
association is in communications with the township to reach an
"Obviously, the association doesn't want to make anyone's life more
difficult," said Miller. "The goal isn't to disenfranchise anyone. We
just want to be in compliance with the law."
During an Aug. 17 meeting, the association board explained to residents
why they want to increase their fees. But residents remain upset. Bonin
said the condominium association has yet to make a formal request to
raise the fees.
"Nothing has been decided," said Miller. "We are in the preliminary stages."