Englewood City Council Addresses Controversial Affordable Housing Initiatives

In an engaging city council meeting in Englewood, a sweeping array of issues was debated, with significant attention given to affordable housing, funding allocations, and a rising tide of concerns about police conduct. The meeting underscored the city’s ongoing struggle with gentrification, mounting housing costs, and systemic issues within local law enforcement.

Affordable housing took center stage, with the council approving ordinances 23-19, 23-20, and 23-21, all aimed at bolstering affordable housing initiatives. These ordinances sought to establish a municipal housing liaison, update housing development fees, and revise land use regulations pertinent to affordable housing. However, public commentators including Rick Wilby and an unidentified speaker voiced concerns that the city’s approach was inadequate and contributing to gentrification. “Affordable housing is not affordable for low-income residents,” Wilby decried, advocating for better housing solutions for black communities.

The council responded to these concerns, stating that Englewood had met its obligations for ’round three’ of the state’s affordable housing regulations. It admitted, however, that disputes over credit for affordable housing constructed pre-Mount Laurel persist. They also clarified the distinction between ‘affordable’ and ‘low-income’ housing, emphasizing the city’s mandate for the former but not the latter.

The meeting continued with discussions around public works projects, downtown parking meter fees, and the allocation of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Of the roughly $2.9 million provided to Englewood during the pandemic, the council proposed a range of projects aimed to benefit the widest array of residents, such as library enhancements, improvements to pumping stations, and upgrading public facilities including drainage systems, parks, and city hall.

Amid these deliberations, the council also found itself confronting a rising swell of public concern about local law enforcement’s behavior. Outrage was sparked by the case of Bernard Placid Jr., who, as local resident Rick Wilby claimed, was tasered by a police officer and left to die while handcuffed. Another resident, Caitlin Scott, echoed these sentiments, recounting her own experiences with law enforcement’s violent behavior, and accusing it of systemic racism.

Despite the intensity of these concerns, the council did not directly address the allegations of police misconduct during the meeting. While responding to numerous other local issues, they clarified that Officer Sharp, involved in the Placid Jr. case, had not been promoted contrary to some public assertions.

Additional issues considered during the meeting included a potential flag-raising event at the library, non-Englewood residents’ use of local tennis courts, and procedures for appointing representatives to the Bergen County Community Development Regional Committee.

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