Measure Would Pave Way for Additional Low Income, Special Needs Housing on Site
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would authorize the State to sell 15.5 acres of land and improvements which are currently part of East Jersey State Prison to the Township of Woodbridge to be remediated as low-income, special needs housing was approved by the Senate yesterday by a vote of 23-12, receiving final legislative approval.
“In New Jersey, real estate is at a premium, and new development projects for people with special needs usually reflect the high cost of real estate in the Garden State,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “This bill transfers surplus property at East Jersey prison to put it to good use in the community, creating community-based housing in close proximity to the Woodbridge Developmental Center for people with developmental disabilities. This will ensure a seamless transition for people who would thrive in a community setting at minimal cost to Woodbridge or the State of New Jersey.”
The bill, S-1929, would authorize the State Treasurer to sell and convey to Woodbridge Township 15.5 acres of property that’s been identified as surplus and is currently part of East Jersey Prison. The property in question includes four former employee residences, including a house which had previously been used by the facility’s warden. Under the bill, Woodbridge would acquire the property for a nominal fee, and would develop and remediate the property to create new special needs housing which fulfills a portion of the municipality’s fair share obligation under the State’s affordable housing laws.
Senator Vitale said that he’s been promoting the repurposing of the East Jersey prison property since he served as Interim Mayor of Woodbridge in 2006. He said that, with its proximity to the Woodbridge Developmental Center, the property in question would allow Developmental Center residents who wish to live in the community and whose needs allow them to live in supervised apartments to transition to community-based care. At the same time, the proximity to the Developmental Center allows the municipality to experiment with repurposing Developmental Center staff to help in their clients’ transitions. Senator Vitale said that if this experiment proves successful, it could become a statewide model for transitioning developmental center residents into a community setting.
“We can create a new model for community-based housing for people with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Vitale. “This bill ensures that the services and support infrastructure that people depend on is nearby, while still granting the independence and freedom that community-based care settings provide. Ultimately, I’m confident that the new community housing development in Woodbridge will stand as an example of the best approach for community-based care for people with developmental disabilities moving forward.”
The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law. It was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee by a vote of 10-3 last week.