Sunday, January 23, 2011

NJ Fair Housing: Christie's Inaction on Housing Threatens NJ Economy

Gov. Christie's Inaction on Housing Threatens NJ Economy

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer today, the creation of jobs and construction of homes are jeopardized in New Jersey by Gov. Christie's inaction on removing regulatory barriers to development of starter homes.  The article points out that in the Governor's State of the State speech last week he spoke of "finding the path to growth" in New Jersey, but yet has failed to make progress on a number of policies important on economic stimulus, including housing reform.

As the Inquirer article reports, NAIOP New Jersey Chapter, New Jersey Business & Industry Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, New Jersey Builders Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce have all signed a public letter to Governor Christie.  While the letter praises the Governor for his efforts to make New Jersey "more business friendly and a place that will incentivize investment"; it also implores him to sign S1/A3447 as a "workable affordable housing policy" needed to "accelerate economic growth". The letter mentions support for the bill's elimination of the Council on Affordable Housing, elimination of the 2.5 percent commercial development fee, and clear municipal obligations.

The letter describes a workable  affordable housing policy as one that will " a) provide those who desperately need affordable housing with the opportunity to find such housing; b) create a system that allow municipalities to more appropriately manage growth, including both market rate and affordable housing; c) create realistic and attainable affordable housing goals that allow development community to work hand in hand with local governments. . ."

We share the business community's desire for a workable housing policy that will help the economy rebound. While we believe that the municipal obligations in S1/A3447 are too low, we agree that the bill does provide a workable and predictable framework to get homes built. If Gov. Christie does not move forward with the legislation, he has an alternative route to get the economy moving and homes built: complying with the Appellate Division's order to expeditiously develop new COAH rules. As we reported yesterday, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has ordered the Christie Administration to provide progress reports every two weeks beginning on January 28 on the drafting of new COAH rules to meet the court-imposed deadline of March 8, 2011, after the  Administration publicly stated that they will not meet the deadline.  These new rules would return to the predictable, well-known system in place in the 1980s and 1990s in New Jersey which created nearly 60,000 homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people.

The foot- dragging by the Administration has a detrimental domino effect.   Municipalities are reluctant to provide opportunities for needed starter homes because they are waiting for potential changes in obligation with the third round COAH rules or new housing legislation.  Builders are stuck not knowing if their projects will move forward, and working families, low-income seniors and those with special needs are missing out on housing opportunities.

The "path to growth" Gov. Christie seeks for New Jersey cannot occur without a workable and constitutional resolution of the state's housing policy that will provide predictability for the business community and municipalities and meet the market demand for starter homes throughout the state.

Fair Share Housing Center, founded in 1975, is based in Cherry Hill. It is the only public interest organization devoted entirely to defending the housing rights of New Jersey's poor through implementing the Mount Laurel doctrine, which requires that each municipality provide its fair share of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income people.  Visit us on the web at

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