The S-1 runaway train has hit a bump in the road.
Finally, our political leadership has realized that ramming a deeply unpopular bill through the Legislature that has managed to alienate all of the Democrats’ core constituencies – and a few of the Republicans’ too – is not such a good idea.
Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green released a statement late today stating “MY PRIORITY IS AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LAW THAT WORKS, NOT ONE THAT IS RUSHED”. His words shows that he has been listening – a skill in short supply in this debate so far.
He, Vice Chair Mila Jasey, Speaker Oliver, and Majority Leader Cryan heard – from everyone – that we need reform of our state’s complex affordable housing laws.
But they also heard – from the NAACP, every Catholic Bishop in the state of NJ, the Sierra Club, Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, and Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and so many others – that we need reform that produces more homes, that recognizes the diversity already present in our cities and first suburbs, and that we don’t want a prolonged court battle – we want to get it right the first time.
It can be hard to get elected officials to listen. But this bill is such a colossal disaster that finally the Assembly realized that it had to stop – both because it made no political sense, and because of the sheer force of the groups against it.
We are not out of the woods yet. Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak may still try to bully the Legislature into passing something by June 30, their arbitrary self-imposed deadline. Sen. Lesniak says exactly that in the Ledger. That’s why it’s so important to keep the pressure on – through phone calls to legislators and through attending the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee hearing this Thursday at 10 am in Committee Room 11.
And no doubt even if S-1 does not get passed this month, there will be more to come. New Jersey does need housing policy reform. And there will continue to be those who try to exploit that need for reform to push the wrong policies – that ask our cities and first ring suburbs to do more than their fair share, don’t produce homes, and destroy our environment.
But for this moment, at least, we have achieved a significant victory, thanks to many people coming together, and to the leadership of Oliver, Cryan, Green, and Jasey (with an important honorable mention to the senators who stood up to the S-1 juggernaut – Rice, Turner, Weinberg, and, with an unusually public and vocal abstention, Don Norcross). And BlueJersey has been a big part of that – thanks very much to all of you for making calls and spreading the word and to Rosi and Jason for their constant encouragement. We look forward to updating you on the hearing tomorrow and what comes next after.