Affordable Housing Trust Fund – The GT Machine’s apparent Shell Game

I have to say, I feel bad for councilwoman Grace. I don’t believe she realizes what she’s gotten herself into in being the liaison to the Gloucester Township Housing Authority. We are talking about the municipal authority this administration uses to apparently play a shell game with Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) money. The entity whose previous Executive Director, Roy Rogers, died fighting a lawsuit against the Gloucester Township Housing Authority. His suit was for wrongful termination. Roy believed he was fired for speaking out about certain questionable actions of the GTHA. One, in particular, dealt with the sale of 10 acres of ground to the Township back in 2012. 

Isn’t the saying – “History Repeats itself”? Gloucester Township is currently in the process of selling that same 10 acres back to the GTHA, again under questionable circumstances. We can dive into that with a little more detail in a moment.

Remember Councilman Scott Owens? I wonder if this current land deal had anything to do with his hasty departure last October from the Township and his Council position? He was the Council’s former liaison to the GTHA. Carolyn Grace has been appointed to Council to fill Mr. Owen’s vacancy. With that appointment she also became the new Liaison to the GTHA. I am not sure if she is aware of the history of the land deals involving this property. Let’s help inform her.

Just the Facts

This is different than I am used to writing. There are going to be a lot of bullet points laying out the facts. I’m not going to lie – it is a LOT of info! I promise you though, it is well worth clearing your head and following the story. I would highly suggest spending a few minutes listening to Denise Coyne’s line of questioning to the council (40:20) to understand the facts that will follow. She sums it up perfectly through a line of questioning.

Again, the following is not an opinion. You can form your own opinion based on the facts. Gloucester Township provided these facts, all from their public records. Every fact can be proven. My hope is that publishing these facts will help our elected officials and their appointees answer residents’ questions.

Trust Fund

The Gloucester Township Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a state-regulated fund set up to create a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing within the Township. These funds offset the taxpayers’ burden for providing state-mandated affordable housing.  I am sure many of you have wondered why our seniors are being forced to move due to Gloucester Township’s high taxes if there is supposed to be affordable housing available. Could it be because our local government is abusing the system?

The Land Deal History

 2006 – The GTHA signed an Agreement of Sale to purchase 15-acres within Lot 1, Block 12301 from Camden County for $600,000 for the purpose of building a minimum of 300 affordable senior rental units. This agreement states, “there currently exists a significant deficit in the number of such suitable housing opportunities in Camden County”.  It stated that the property should only be used for affordable senior housing.

2007 – Lot 1, block 12301 was subdivided into one 5 acre lot (became block 12301, lot 3) and one 10 acre lot (became block 12301, lot 4)

Jan  2008 – A deed was drawn up transferring ownership of 15 acres from Camden County to the GT Housing Authority with a restriction that said the property had to be used for affordable senior housing. The GTHA purchased the land for $600,000 according to the Agreement of Sale dated 10/26/2006. That Agreement stated the GTHA was to construct a minimum of 300 new, low to median income units for seniors.

2010 – Senior Campus One, a 75 unit affordable senior apartment complex is built on the 5 acres Lot 3. Block 12301

June or July 2012 – Gloucester Township Housing Authority signs an agreement with Gloucester Township to sell the vacant 10 acre Lot 4, block 12301 to Gloucester Township for $734,712. This was done using money from the affordable housing trust fund and COAH funds ($666,759 from trust and $67,952 COAH funds).  The agreement states that the two would coordinate joint efforts to provide affordable senior housing at the site. 

Jan 2021 – Resolutions are approved by GT Council and the GTHA to sell the (STILL) vacant 10 acre Lot 4, Block 12301 back to the GTHA from Gloucester Township for $872,865. Again, the funds come from the affordable housing trust fund.

Questionable & Noteworthy Actions

April 2012 – The meeting minutes of the GTHA reveals that the Authority was having trouble paying their bills. 

May 2012 – There was a GTHA motion to sell Lot 4, Block 12301 to Gloucester Township with no previous discussion documented in the minutes. The Resolution was drawn up and approved the same day it was introduced during the May meeting. Cindy Carlamere was authorized to execute all documents in connection with the sale as the Board Chair. She is the wife of GT Solicitor David Carlamere.

June 2012 – Commissioner Arthur Knapp asked the GTHA how the land deal came about as there was never a discussion. It was said that Councilman Hutchison “brought it up”. Commissioner Arthur Knapp mentioned during the meeting that the tape recording of the Executive Session of May’s meeting had been turned off.
From the June 2012 Minutes of the meeting:

Meeting Minutes

Oct. 2012 – Commissioner Arthur Knapp resigns.

Feb. 2013 Executive Director Roy Rogers of the GTHA is fired. He ends up filing a lawsuit, which in part claims he was “terminated for his objection to unethical GTHA policies and Actions” and that the land transfer by the GTHA was “unethical and procedurally improper”

Feb. 2020 – Ordinance is approved allowing family housing (non-age restricted) as a permitted and preferable use for the Lakeland Phase I Redevelopment plan. The Courier post advertised the public hearing for 3/23/2020. The public hearing was actually held on 3/30/2020.

1/11/2021 – Township Solicitor David Carlamere presents the plan to sell the 10-acre block 12301, lot 4 to the GTHA using money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund during the Council workshop meeting. Solicitor Carlamere stated to Council members, “We analyzed the appropriateness of it and everything is fine.” There was no mention that the same 10 acres were purchased from the GTHA back in 2012. The Resolution and the Ordinance are introduced and approved at the Council meeting the same night. This Ordinance 0-21-01 says the land is designated for Veterans Senior Housing and/or Affordable Family Housing.

1/12/2021 (The NEXT Night) – Solicitor Carlamere “updates” the GTHA that the Council took “certain formal action” at the Council meeting the night before to sell Block 12301, Lot 4 to the GTHA for Veterans Senior and Affordable Family Housing”. The GTHA passes a motion from the floor to adopt the Resolution to purchase. Was the GTHA unaware they needed to purchase this land until Mr. Carlamere informed them the Township was selling it to them?

1/25/2021 Resident Denise Coyne asked (22:14) how Council selling the land to the GTHA would benefit the residents. Council President Mercado stated that selling the land would afford the residents a realistic opportunity for affordable housing.

3/22/2021 Resident Denise Coyne asked Council about the land deal (40:20 ). She stated that 2.2 million dollars had been spent transferring the same piece of property back and forth. With that, 13 years later we still only have one senior building with 75 apartments. Mrs Coyne clarified that the money used to buy and sell the land (Affordable Housing Trust Fund and COAH funds) was supposed to be used to offset the taxpayers’ burden for providing affordable housing. She then questioned how they could put family housing there if it was deed-restricted for affordable senior housing, or how they can justify using the AHTF monies. No one had any answers. 

Summary

Turning back to my opinion now. If there is nothing to see here, this should be publicly addressed. Council President Mercado wanted Denise Coyne to “put it in writing” so here it is. In writing, for everyone to see. Since they did not want to address it publicly at the council meeting, lets air it out.

I don’t know about you, but this seems as shady as it gets. We, the residents of Gloucester Township, deserve public answers at public meetings. There is a councilman sitting up there not saying a word when public record shows he “brought it up” back in March or April of 2012.  Remember though, May 2012 was when they turned off recording during the executive session. I’m sure that is when Mr Hutchison actually brought it up.

The Solicitor’s memory failed him as well despite the fact that both he and his wife were involved in the previous land deal. The GT Business Administrator said he doesn’t recall owning the same land we are now selling. He does know the Township is selling the land,… right?  Once the deed restriction was brought to light, the Solicitor, David Carlamere refused to admit the plan for the property includes family housing. At the January 25 meeting, his memory was much clearer. Carlamere stated that family affordable housing and veterans senior housing was the current plan. His memory was also clear when he explained the land deal to Council at the workshop meeting AND when he explained it to the Housing Authority at their meeting the following night only 2 short months ago. I wonder if he bothered to mention that the Township had previously purchased the same 10 acres from the GTHA using affordable housing trust fund money? Probably not. He refers to the funds used as “COAH Money”. It seems like he is trying to avoid saying the actual source of the funds being spent. A true lawyer right there….

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