STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — After facing the possibility of losing millions of dollars to the state, officials are moving forward with affordable housing plans that include selling mobile homes and building new single-family and group homes in Ocean Acres.

Last month, the state was looking to take back $2.4 million from the township in affordable housing money, but a state appeals court ruled money that towns set aside for affordable-housing projects cannot be seized.

“We already had a long-range affordable housing plan in place, and part of that plan was working in conjunction with folks who build these homes. We set aside this money so we would 100 percent meet the requirements,” Mayor John Spodofora said.

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The $2.4 million that the state was looking to take back wasn’t an accurate figure and did not reflect the money the township already had committed to plans for affordable housing projects, township Administrator Jim Moran said. The township has $3.7 million set aside for the projects and administrative costs.

“The problem with this is the state was looking at our COAH balance, but we already had a $1 million-plus commitment to support through contract housing at Perry’s Lake and Pine Crest Village,” Moran said.

The township has a $746,850 subsidy committed by contract to the Pine Crest Village mobile home park as part of the township’s affordable housing plan.

Also, in a separate account in the affordable housing trust fund the township has set aside $315,726 in upgrade fees at the Perry’s Lake mobile home retirement community. This funding comes from a previous legal settlement involving upgrades to the properties that resulted in the properties’ failure to meet affordable housing criteria.

A limited number of units in Perry’s Lake, a senior community, are part of the affordable housing program, and all of the trailers in Pinecrest Village are affordable housing units, Moran said.

Although the mobile home units are more cost effective, there is still some difficulty selling them in today’s market, Moran said.

“We’re having trouble these days, and the only issue for us is the economy. Although they are affordable housing, there are still income and qualification requirements, and although qualification requirements are less, it is still an issue,” he said.

Moran said the township is also in the process of acquiring vacant lots in the Ocean Acres section of the township to build affordable housing.

“We’re working with an outside company who we have deposited money with and will be acquiring land and building housing,” he said.

The township has committed $1 million toward the Ocean Acres Affordable Housing Program, an approved plan for the acquisition and construction of several affordable housing projects on vacant lots in Ocean Acres section of the township.

Although the township has not started to acquire these properties due to the depressed housing market, they have contracted with Homes Now, a nonprofit affordable housing construction and management company. The company will act as the township agent for the purchase of property, the construction of homes and management of the properties as affordable housing units, Moran said.

“Homes Now actually found us. They came to us looking for land to build affordable housing. We thought this was the way to get the most bang for the buck if we supplied the land and then they build the homes,” Spodofora said.

The township also will work with Homes Now to build affordable group-home housing in the township. The township has earmarked $400,000 for the construction of the homes for handicapped citizens, which will be operated by the Ocean County Association for Retarded Citizens.

“We are one of the few that are in 100 percent compliance with the affordable housing requirements. It has been hard because there are so many people in need. There are waiting lists for the township’s affordable housing units,” Spodofora said.

The township has $525,780 set aside for down-payment assistance programs. As part of the township’s rehabilitation program, there is $210,000 allocated to provide financial assistance to qualified residents for major home improvement projects.

In 2010, construction was completed at Stafford Park Apartments in the Stafford Business Park, a 112-unit affordable housing complex that gave the township 186 credits toward the Council on Affordable Housing regulations.

Affordable housing units are mixed throughout the township and it’s not even obvious that they exist, Spodofora said.

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