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As bytheshore73 deftly noted earlier this week, something strange is going on in Trenton on housing issues. Gov. Christie chided Speaker Oliver for not moving on legislation to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) when what the Assembly was doing that day was… well… introducing legislation to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing, that had been shared with members of Christie’s cabinet twice the week before. Is this just an example of the Governor shooting from the hip, or something more?
In part, shooting from the hip. In part, something more… well, more pernicious… and we need your help on that part by calling Asm. Jerry Green at 908-561-5757.
You see, pretty much everyone – builders, civil rights groups, environmentalists, housing advocates, municipalities – agrees that we should get rid of COAH, especially after we won a court decision earlier this month tossing out its current rules as unconstitutional and discriminatory.
But, as you might imagine, there are widely divergent views on what comes next.
find out why below the fold
Some wealthy municipalities want “abolishing COAH” to mean “making it so that we can exclude starter homes and just build massive office parks, and people who work there can live elsewhere.” That is the approach that S-1, which passed the Senate this June but failed to get through the Assembly, stymied by the opposition of everyone from the NAACP to the New Jersey Builders Association.
Others – including us – see the overhaul of COAH as a way to set simple rules about what kinds of zoning practices are legal and illegal, and recognizing the differences between towns that already have provided a range of housing choices and those that have excluded working families, low-income seniors, and people with special needs. We, the Housing and Community Development Network, and many other groups have proposed our own alternative which has been gaining steam.
The pressure from Gov. Christie is about shoving the debate about how to replace COAH towards something more like S-1 that is little more than a fig leaf for municipalities to continue exclusionary practices. The recent court decision reinforces the unconstitutionality of this approach.
The Assembly now has to make a choice. The bill it introduced on Monday is deeply flawed, with several major loopholes including focusing mainly on zoning for homes costing as much as $600,000 without any requirement that those developments include starter homes; letting developers pay a nominal fee instead of meeting any requirement for low- and moderate-income housing; and shutting non-profits like Habitat for Humanity out of the process. As a result, it would have a similar impact to S-1 in giving municipalities cover to continue exclusionary practices. You can read more about the details on our blog here and here.
That said, we have spoken with Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green, and he has committed to a meeting with several groups to discuss how to fix the legislation. Also, he is currently taking comments from interested parties on the legislation. No doubt many people are pushing him to keep it as is.
We need your help to ask Asm. Green to stand with families looking for homes, the civil rights community, and the interests of people in his district. Please take a moment today to call Asm. Green’s office at 908-561-5757 and ask him to make changes to his bill.
Here’s some talking points you can use – we want a bill that will (a) actually build homes for people of all incomes, without a loophole for paying nominal fees instead; (b) allow credit towards the town’s housing obligations for starter homes only, not homes that cost as much as $600,000; and (c) allow groups like Habitat for Humanity and special needs providers to build on environmentally appropriate land they own in towns with a shortage of such homes, without those towns being able to impose burdensome regulations to stop them.
If you have other legislators that you know or represent you, we could use your calls or faxes there too.
Thanks for the Blue Jersey community’s continued support, and please comment here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know your calls go and if you have any questions.