HIGH DENSITY DEVELOPMENT DOESN’T MEAN SOARING SCHOOL ENROLLMENT
By Ralph Zucker, President, Somerset Development
Many who oppose multifamily residential development in New Jersey believe that these types of developments create a burden on local school systems by attracting an influx of school children. Ultimately, they say, these developments hurt taxpayers because the property tax revenues generated by the new developments are not sufficient to offset the costs of educating the additional students.
The facts, however, are not on their side. According to a recent Rutgers study, high-density developments, especially mixed-use projects, actually create fewer schoolchildren than an equal number of single-family homes. These developments also bring in valuable tax ratables that more than offset the costs associated with educating the schoolchildren who live in these communities. In addition to covering the costs of educating the students, the tax ratables generated by such developments contribute added fiscal benefits that can help keep a lid on property taxes in New Jersey, which are among the nation’s highest.
The Rutgers study was conducted by David Listokin, a professor at the Bloustein School for Public Policy and one of the state’s leading fiscal impact analysts. Utilizing census data from 2000, the study concludes that 58 school-age children are generated for every 100 three-bedroom single-family detached homes, of whom 48 would be likely to attend public school. By contrast, 12 school children, with 10 likely to attend public schools, would be generated by 100 two-bedroom multifamily condominiums. In fact, contrary to public opinion, detached housing currently produces the highest number of residents and pupils compared to attached homes. Indeed, the most common types of multifamily attached housing, such as two- to three-bedroom townhouses and one- to two-bedroom multifamily units, have the lowest impact per household on public school populations.
Opponents of multifamily residential development might argue that more multifamily units can be fit onto a parcel of property than single-family homes, which is true. But with the number of schoolchildren generated by single-family homes exceeding that generated by two-bedroom multifamily units by a factor nearly five, a multifamily development would have to be nearly five times as dense as a single-family development in order to generate the same number of school children.
Residences built in transit villages in close proximity to public transportation generate even fewer schoolchildren, the study concluded. Sample data from existing Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs) showed that such developments generate approximately one-sixth the number of public school children generated by homes of a similar type, size and value that are not specifically located near mass transit.