Berkeley will establish law enforcement in more than 55 communities

The Holiday City at Carefree clubhouse is open. (Photo by Chris Lundy)

BERKELEY – You have to be at least 55 to live in seniors’ housing, but the regulations really don’t have much teeth. Now the board will make it a township law that you have to be old to live there.

City Council recently introduced an ordinance that would change the definition of “planned residential retirement community”.

Planned age-restricted communities have their own code. What this ordinance does is ensure that the township also has a rule. Basically, you need a bylaw for seniors and make it a law.

Councilman Michael Signorile, who also leads the city’s Upper Developments Coalition, said it was a way to maintain autonomy. If more than 20% of homes are owned by people under 55, the community could lose its protected status.

Mayor Carmen Amato said this ordinance codifies what the statutes already state. It will make it possible to keep these neighborhoods as the elderly want them.

“As more and more individuals try to take ownership,” he said, there could be families moving in with children, putting a strain on school districts.

“Some postmen want to sell to young people,” adviser Sophia Gingrich said. It would prevent that from happening.

Specifically, the ordinance states that “permanent residents of communities that require that, pursuant to the (Federal Housing and Urban Development Acts), only persons fifty-five (55) years of age and older, and their respective spouse or domestic partner, must purchase land or a housing unit” to ensure that the elderly community does not have its age limit status revoked.

The ordinance also notes that it is made pursuant to the Federal Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, for communities of senior citizens. This is important because in recent years, local officials have fought against state laws that would alter higher administrative regulations. Federal supersedes state laws.

Although the state lawmakers crafting these laws say they just want consistency across New Jersey on how higher developments are governed, residents worried that Trenton would overstep their authority. More importantly, they fear it could eventually lead to moves to remove the 55+ designation from senior communities.

The order says it may comply with the provisions of NJSA 45:22A-21 et seq., which is the State Retirement Community Full Disclosure Act.

Another section of the ordinance covers the maintenance of property owned by the association, such as private roads and recreation areas, essentially keeping this under the control of the senior community’s own board of directors.

He also states that this would not be changed or revoked without a resolution from the Berkeley Township Council. If a resolution were to be drafted, the person proposing the change should notify all property owners in the seniors’ community.

Additionally, any new senior development in the city should follow all of the above rules.

There have been many arguments behind the scenes about this concept. Some real estate agents want to open up senior communities to any type of buyer because it’s good for business. However, some say it would drive up prices in those communities, driving out the elderly.

Currently, some people living in senior communities are under the age of 55. Some are children who live with their elderly parents. Some have special needs and cannot live alone. Some simply live there in violation of the statutes.

People in senior communities will be the first to tell you that there are school-aged children living there.

An argument against this order is that sometimes the adult children are given the house while the eldest is still living there. They do this to protect their finances in case they go to a nursing home. The value of the home is often used to determine how to pay for care in the nursing home, and if it’s on behalf of their children, the nursing home can’t touch it.

The change was introduced as an ordinance at the January council meeting. Ordinances get a second reading, where the public can comment, at another meeting. In this case, it will be February 28. Between these two meetings, the township and county planning boards must review it. If passed in February, it will enter into force 20 days later.

Comments are closed.