Author Archive: Adam Gordon at Fair Share Housing Center

Christie Anti-Veteran Campaign Gains Another Supporter

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It looks like Chris Christie’s campaign to allow towns to say no to veterans looking for decent homes has gained another adherent.

As reported in another Blue Jersey post by Tom Wyka, a councilman in Parsippany, John Cesaro, voted against allowing a two-family home for formerly homeless veterans because he claimed it would be “social engineering.”

We at Fair Share Housing are not exactly sure what part of letting veterans live in a two-family home qualifies as “social engineering.” It seems a bit more accurate to say that trying to stop veterans from living in your town is “social engineering.”

Fortunately, Cesaro was outvoted by members of his own party to allow veterans to live in Parsippany, showing that there are people of both parties that believe that people who served our country deserve a place in our communities.

But perhaps Cesaro was just following the leader. Just two weeks ago, Gov. Christie stopped homes for disabled veterans from being built in Salem County.

We at Fair Share Housing Center are not sure what the moral or political calculation is that makes politicians like Christie and Cesaro think that keeping veterans out of communities is acceptable. It’s wrong – and frankly offensive. And it’s good to see that people like Tom Wyka and Cesaro’s council mates are not going along with it.

Jerry Green: We Have Just Started the Good Fight

A valuable reminder of who Chris Christie serves. – promoted by Rosi

In a powerful, stirring speech at the Housing and Community Development Network’s semi-annual membership meeting last week, Asm. Jerry Green, Speaker Pro Tempore and Chair of the Housing and Local Government Committee, described his fight with Gov. Christie on housing reform. Green’s speech came as he accepted one of two 2011 Legislators of the Year awards from the Network, along with Speaker Sheila Oliver (who was not able to attend at the last minute and had her Chief of Staff Thurman Barnes receive the award in her place).

Green gave a great overview of the standoff between him and Christie – and the issues at stake – in his speech:

Green noted the widening impacts of New Jersey’s housing crisis:

The last 30-40 years I’ve been in the trenches it’s always been about poor black people. . . But now it’s middle income white America that’s in the same boat. They’re hurting. They don’t see an opportunity for decent housing for their own kids.

I have legislators coming up to me saying Jerry, you know something, you’re right. My kids can’t even afford to live in the neighborhood. You have teachers who can’t afford to live in their neighborhoods. This is not fair.

And he said he would continue to take on Christie to fight for those decent homes:

My plan for the next two years is to meet with the Administration and meet with the Governor. He’s made it very clear: my way or no way. Well, Chris: it’s MY way or no way.

A brief reminder of how we got here, and more, below the fold…

Christie Says No to Homes for Disabled Veterans – Just in Time for Pearl Harbor Day

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Today is the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, a day when we reflect on the sacrifices of so many veterans who made our country and our world what it is today.

It’s perhaps a little surprising, then, that Gov. Christie thought that this was a good time to shut down a proposed development for disabled veterans in Salem County – which, absent his interference, could have broken ground and provided both homes and jobs by Pearl Harbor Day next year.

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

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Today, DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa announced she is headed back to her law firm job after two years as the frontperson for the Christie Administration’s anti-family, pro-exclusion agenda. While New Jersey’s economy continued to tank, wealthy towns placed excluding the riff-raff above creating jobs and homes, with Grifa and the Administration’s enthusiastic cheerleading. Despite the rather unusual coalition of business leaders, housing advocates, special needs groups, and environmentalists pushing against them, Grifa – and the boss in the front office – refused to budge.

Grifa’s successor, Richard Constable, doesn’t seem to have much background in housing, community development, or municipal governance, most recently having served as Deputy Commissioner in the Department of Labor. Like many other Christie Administration leaders, he worked for Gov. Christie in the U.S. Attorney’s office for many years, which Gov. Christie joked about in his press conference today. He’s personally close to the Governor, according to an article in his graduate school alumni magazine.

We hope that we’re pleasantly surprised by Commissioner-designee Constable as he takes on this new job. But more likely we’ll see more of the same direction – more miserable failures in dealing with exclusionary communities that put blocking new homes near transit and jobs above the economy and more inaction in response to New Jersey’s growing foreclosure crisis.

Because it isn’t DCA that’s the problem. It’s the Governor’s pandering to the wealthy few who are making out like bandits in this economy – and who don’t feel the sting of the jobs they kill when they say no to working families, lower-income seniors, and people with special needs who want to be their neighbors.

South Brunswick Gets National Award – Township Recognizes Value of Everybody’s Labor

Posted over Labor Day weekend, definitely worth its shot on the front page – Rosi

Recently, Money Magazine named South Brunswick Township as the 22nd best place to live in the United States, and in doing so specifically recognized the Township’s racial and ethnic diversity and its “wide range of housing, from $100,000 one-bedroom condos to million-dollar homes.”

On this Labor Day weekend, we at Fair Share Housing recognize South Brunswick as an example of a town that appreciates the contribution of everyone’s labor – whether they are teachers in the township’s schools, parents caring for their kids or for adult children with special needs, or janitors who clean the office parks near Exit 8A.

And more broadly, we stand with our allies in New Jersey’s labor movement and recognize that our work is two sides of the same coin. If people don’t have decent jobs with good wages and benefits, then it’s harder for them to afford a decent home; if towns are allowed to keep out modestly priced homes, as Gov. Christie wants to give them carte blanche to do, then people who work in a town even with decent wages won’t be able to live there.

More on South Brunswick’s story – below the fold.

New Report: Christie Making NJ Unaffordable for Middle Class

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A new Rowan University analysis of exclusionary zoning in New Jersey shows that, in the fastest growing areas of the state, municipalities have largely outlawed even middle-class housing in their zoning – while continuing to allow dense development of offices and shops.

Gov. Christie said last week that he has “always believed in allowing municipalities to make their own decisions about affordable housing,” in unilaterally proposing to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and transfer its powers to the Department of Community Affairs after failing to get the Legislature to go along with his plans to let wealthy towns institute discriminatory zoning.

This was part of a series of five “executive reorganization” orders that would transfer more power to Christie without independent oversight – also transferring power for business attraction and retention from the independent Economic Development Authority to Lt. Gov. Guadagno and abolishing the state’s Higher Education Commission and instead simply making its decisions carried out by the Department of Education. These transfers all represent a stretched legal interpretation of the Governor’s authority under a statute allowing limited reorganization within the Executive Branch.

The Rowan report shows the New Jersey Gov. Christie envisions.

A New Jersey in which, in Somerset County, there are 16 times as many jobs allowed as homes – and 87 percent of residentially zoned land only allows mansions on one acre or more of land.

More below the fold.  

Will Legislature Use Millionaires’ Tax to Subsidize Millionaires’ Condos?

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With four days left before the Legislature breaks for the summer, one of the most controversial and costly bills up for debate – first considered just last Thursday – would provide up to $150 million in state subsidies for luxury condominiums. Think of it as using the proceeds from the millionaires tax to help subsidize condominiums for millionaires.

The proposed legislation, S2972, has as its main sponsor Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), who has drawn controversy over the past year for a number of legislative proposals regarding housing policy. The bill came to light for the first time late Friday, as an amendment to an existing bill that dealt with other aspects of the Urban Hub Tax Credit. The amendment actually passed Lesniak’s Senate Economic Growth Committee on Thursday but the text of the bill was not available to the public until 24 hours later.

The amendment would eliminate a requirement that the “Urban Hub Tax Credit” only be used for developments including apartments and condominiums affordable to middle-class families, and instead place no price limit on developments that could be built with $150 million in state subsidies for residential development. With only four days left before the Legislature’s summer break, the full Senate could take up the bill as soon as today.  An identical bill was introduced in the Assembly on Thursday to allow the legislation to pass by June 30.

More below…

Housing bill on the Governor’s desk

After a year-long debate on the future of starter homes for families, seniors, and people with special needs, the Legislature yesterday took the final action necessary to put S1/A3447 on the Governor’s desk for his signature, with an amended final bill passed by both houses.  The legislation has improved substantially since the earlier version of S1 June 2010, but still reduces the number of homes required in New Jersey by over 50 percent.

Under the final bill, municipalities are actually required to provide opportunities for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income families, based on a simple percentage of the total homes in the town.  Two key bad features in earlier bills have been removed:

• Municipalities can no longer meet all of their obligations by providing expensive housing for households earning up to 150% of median income.  

• Developers will actually be required to provide housing that is affordable rather than simply paying a small fee to avoid making a development inclusionary.  

In those ways, and many others, S1/A3447 is much better legislation than what was originally proposed by Sen. Lesniak as the replacement to the Council on Affordable Housing.  

The legislation reflects significant input from FSHC and many of our allies, including housing, planning, and civil rights organizations, a broad range of faith communities, special needs and supportive housing providers, and over 100 other groups that opposed the original S-1. With the help of many of you – including many of you on BlueJersey – we shaped the debate through preparing analyses, sharing information with the media, and helping mobilize our grassroots allies. Our many voices persuaded the Assembly – with the leadership of Housing and Local Government Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Green and Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan – to reject the Senate’s demand that its bad legislation pass by June 30, 2010.  We consider the progress an important accomplishment for the broad movement of New Jerseyans who oppose exclusionary land use practices – which according to a national study by the Brookings Institution are the most exclusionary in the country.

Unfortunately, as with the legislation that passed the Assembly late in 2010, the version that is now on the Governor’s desk falls far short of the number of homes needed to comply with the Mount Laurel doctrine.  As a result of amendments made yesterday, which reduce obligations largely in shore towns, we project that the S1/A3447 will require about 48,000 units of affordable housing to be provided over the next ten years – or an over 50 percent reduction from COAH’s Third Round numbers and a 13 percent reduction from the version that passed the Assembly just a month ago (you can see our complete town-by-town analysis here).

Yesterday’s legislative votes now puts the issue front and center with Governor Christie. While he considers whether to sign S1/A3447, he also faces a court deadline of March 8, 2010 for COAH to adopt revised Third Round regulations – a process that COAH has admitted in court filings it has not even begun.  If the Governor does not sign this bill, and COAH continues to delay, we will seek to have the courts take over the process. If we need to reach that last resort, we are optimistic that the judiciary will keep its promise from the Mount Laurel decisions that, while it does not build houses, it does enforce the constitution.  

Thanks to the Blue Jersey community as housing fight stretches into new year

This was posted just before Christmas. I have to say, this year Fair Share Housing Center has told its story very well at Blue Jersey, and we thank them for that. – promoted by Rosi

It has been quite a year for housing policy in New Jersey. After at least six different versions of housing legislation, one Executive Order that only stood for 10 days before a court injunction, and two other key court decisions, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) remains in place, and housing policy in New Jersey has an uncertain future. Here’s a look at where we’ve been, where we are going, and the excellent grass roots organizing by so many groups – including the BlueJersey community – that have impacted the past year and will be critical in 2011.

Gov. Christie, of course, promised to “gut COAH” during the 2009 Republican primary to his conservative base. It didn’t come up so much in the general election, perhaps because polls shows that most New Jerseyans support having a range of housing choices in every community. Still, replacing COAH was a goal that most people could agree on as the agency, despite a competent and intelligent staff, had been manipulated due to various politically motivated changes in policy over the past decade.

the ugly details below

Christie to Dems: Would you like to join my court fight?

Will Chris Christie lure the state’s Democratic leadership into

(a) joining his crusade against the state Supreme Court;

(b) alienating a broad swath of the party’s political base;

(c) going up against NJ’s business community;

(d) all of the above?

(D) might sound, well, unlikely – but Sen. Ray Lesniak and others are carefully considering the proposition over this holiday season, in the latest chapter of what is now a year-long saga of the Governor’s attempt to gut the state’s housing policy.

When we last visited this drama, the Assembly had passed, in a straight party line vote, A-3447 – a bill that would abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and replace it with a simpler system that would significantly reduce municipal housing obligations. We opposed the bill due to that reduction, but also recognized the efforts of Asm. Green, Asw. Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan in crafting a bill that was a marked improvement over all of its predecessors.

In what seemed like a miracle in a year-long debate that has been filled with groups constantly opposing everything proposed, an influential constituency emerged in support of the bill – consisting of pretty much all of New Jersey’s business community, various non-profit housing groups including the Housing and Community Development Network, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, and all of the major special needs groups in the state, among others. Several environmental groups and suburban mayors opposed the bill. The Assembly Democrats touted the bill as a major accomplishment, and everything was set for a vote in the Senate on Monday.

And then that vote didn’t happen. Gov. Christie called the bill “a joke,” and Sen. Lesniak – who had been pushing an absolutely awful version of this bill, S-1, earlier in the year, said that he would be considering changes to the Assembly bill and bringing it up for a vote in January. Christie asked for the Legislature to reconsider Lesniak’s original bill – even though it had long since been repudiated as unconstitutional and faced a wall of opposition from the business community and civil rights, environmental, housing, religious, and special needs groups.