New Jersey

Affordable housing advocates are throwing their support behind a proposed transit oriented development project known as InterCap transit village in West Windsor, NJ that is nearing the final stages of approval. The 800-unit project will contain 98 units of affordable housing, of which 50% will be for moderate-income families, 40 percent for low income, and 10 percent for very low income:

“We are pleased that the township is moving forward with a project that will produce 98 units of affordable housing with people that really need them,” said Herb Levine, executive director for Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.

Read the full story here: Affordable-housing advocates back Princeton Junction transit village

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A report conducted by Rowan University and paid for by Fair Share Housing Center finds that the lack of affordable housing in New Jersey is due in part to zoning laws:

Development of big homes on big lots and zoning that favors businesses over townhouses has stymied efforts to make wealthy towns affordable for low-income residents and helped push New Jersey’s suburban sprawl, a new report to be released today concludes.

Read the full article here: Report blames zoning laws for lack of affordable housing in New Jersey

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On Wednesday, NJ Governor Chris Christie proposed a reorganization plan that would eliminate the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and transfer its functions to the Department of Community Affairs. Below is the press release announcing the Governor’s plan:

Trenton, NJ – Continuing his commitment to making state government smaller, more efficient and cost effective for New Jersey taxpayers, Governor Chris Christie today filed reorganization plans that transfer, eliminate or better position the operation of five units within state government. The plans streamline government operations through common sense reorganization of some Executive Branch functions, including the abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and transfer of its responsibilities to the Department of Community Affairs. The move marks another step toward achieving Governor Christie’s commitment to real affordable housing reform.

“Managing state government to ensure that programs and services are delivered to our citizens in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible is a key priority of this Administration,” said Governor Christie. “We are following through on this responsibility to make government run more efficiently and work better for all New Jerseyans. A crucial step in this process is the elimination of COAH and the transfer of its functions to a department which already supports our local governments and works closely with them on a daily basis. I’ve always believed that municipalities should be able to make their own decisions on affordable housing without being micromanaged and second guessed from Trenton. The Department of Community Affairs will work with municipalities on affordable housing, not against them.”

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The city of Camden owes the government $290,000 for five failed affordable housing projects. The projects received HUD grants throughout the 90s and early 2000s, but failed to deliver affordable units. One of the projects is Lanning Square West:

In 1998, the Lanning Square West Neighborhood Corp. received a $50,000 federal grant to start developing 28 townhouses between Washington and Berkley Streets and West and Fourth Streets.

Within a year, the group had acquired all of the parcels it needed and 100 percent of the financing through grants and a $1.5 million loan from Sun National Bank. Yet by 2002, only 40 percent of the project had been completed, according to HUD’s 2002 annual report.

Read the full article here: Camden must repay U.S. for failed housing projects

 

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Today, at 2pm, Governor Chris Christie will deliver his budget message to a joint session of the New Jersey State Legislature. It is expected that the governor will propose significant cutbacks to deal with an estimated $10 billion budget shortfall in the coming year. A letter, signed by numerous housing advocates, brings to light potential cutbacks in the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) and the possibility that the governor may allocate Housing Trust Fund dollars to help plug the budget gap.

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A New Jersey appeals court gave governor Christie’s administration a March 8th deadline to come up with new rules to guide affordable housing obligations. The deadline stems from a ruling invalidating the Council on Affordable Housing’s (COAH) 3rd round procedures for enforcing affordable housing obligations.

The ruling comes as the governor deliberates over signing an affordable housing bill passed by both the state senate and assembly. The bill stands to abolish COAH and would make the March deadline irrelevant.

Read More:

Housing bill in Christie’s hands
N.J. appeals court says Christie administration must present new affordable housing rules

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Two new opinion pieces add to the growing and discordant chorus of voices surrounding New Jersey’s controversial affordable housing legislation. In a piece entitled Affordable housing bill benefits New Jersey developers, Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, criticizes the bill on environmental grounds:

it puts a target on many rural and environmentally sensitive parts of New Jersey. More than 75% of towns in New Jersey will not be compliant, which means they will be at the mercy of developers. We believe this bill will cause more sprawl and over development in New Jersey.

Another letter, circulated between 12/27/10 – 12/31/10 in multiple state publications, paints the legislation in a more favorable light. The piece by Reverend R. Lenton Buffalo Jr., President of the New Jersey Regional Coalition, entitled Making Lemonade from a Lemon — New Housing Legislation Deserves Support, argues the legislation is a positive step for the state:

While it’s not perfect, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan and Senate President Steve Sweeney deserve compliments and gratitude for turning a near disaster for fair housing into a very positive framework for a more progressive and fair system for affordable housing in New Jersey.

Click here for previous stories involving the New Jersey affordable housing legislation

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The controversial New Jersey affordable housing bill that passed the state assembly last monday was pulled form Senate voting after Governor Chrisitie threatened to veto the bill if it passed without changes:

Christie, who campaigned on a platform including affordable-housing reform, called the bill “just a joke” and questioned why lawmakers had not approved an earlier version passed by the Senate six months ago, which then was extensively amended in the Assembly.

Read the full article here from the Philadelphia Inquirer: Affordable-housing bill pulled after Christie’s veto threat

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Today, The Cherry Hill Courier Post added another voice to the editorial chorus surrounding New Jersey’s affordable housing bill. The bill, which passed in the state Assembly last monday, would abolish the Council on Affordable Housing and reform the affordable housing obligations placed on municipalities.

The article notes that both sides of the political spectrum seem to agree that getting rid of COAH is a good idea. Opposition to the bill, however, has come both from affordable housing advocates and those who believe it will encourage unwanted, dense development:

Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco, R-Morris, says the ‘high zoning density requirement will force an unwanted change on the landscape of a town and will result in infrastructure costs that taxpayers cannot absorb.” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, concurs.

Read the full article here: Keep simple rules in place, ditch COAH

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The New Jersey Assembly narrowly passed (43-32) a controversial bill that will overhaul the administration of affordable housing programs in the state. Most notably, the bill abolishes the Council on Affordable Housing, which Chief sponsor Assemblyman Jerry Green (D., Union) described as, “costly and ineffective”. The bill also dampens the affordable housing obligations of some towns.

Opponents of the bill take issue with those reduced obligations. The Fair Housing Center, a New Jersey based advocacy group, released a report which found that the bill would reduce local housing obligations by 71 percent. The Center is not alone in opposing the relaxed affordable housing obligations. Roughly a month ago, the Newark Star Ledger published an editorial which claimed the bill needed work:

the bill is not tough enough on towns that don’t have much affordable housing at all. It requires developers who build complexes with at least 10 units to set aside 10 percent of the total for affordable housing, or to pay a fee. But the towns can ignore that and instead zone at least 20 percent of their land for “affordable” housing that’s not really affordable

This is just the latest chapter in New Jersey’s attempt to overhaul their affordable housing programs. A Philadelphia Inquirer article speculates that the bill could be put to vote in the state Senate some time next week.

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