Tag Archive: housing

Important Deadline in Housing Trust Funds Fight This Friday

This Friday, August 2, marks an extremely important deadline for municipalities across New Jersey as they respond to letters sent by the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). These letters request that municipalities provide documentation proving their commitment of municipal housing trust funds. Over 3,000 new homes for victims of Sandy, people with special needs, and working families remain in limbo as the Christie Administration continues to try to seize these funds.

COAH sent these letters following the New Jersey Appellate Division’s June 7 decision that the Christie Administration could not move forward on seizing trust funds without detailed scrutiny and broadened participation. The decision followed a dramatic three weeks in which the Appellate Division first halted the entire process after COAH had ordered that towns reply by May 22 in an attempt to seize the funds before the end of the 2013 budget year and the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld that order.

The new review process comes at a critical time in the state’s history, with an unprecedented demand for housing only 9 months after super storm Sandy. A significant amount of these funds-57 percent – were also already earmarked for towns in the nine counties hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

In COAH’s letters, sent in late June, the agency notified municipalities they had 30 days to prove their funds were committed to building new housing developments or for other fair housing programs (despite COAH’s failure to define what “committed” means or approve plans needed to move forward). Because of our victory in the Appellate Division with our co-appellants the League of Municipalities and South Brunswick Township, COAH’s Executive Director then has to review the files town by town and provide further explanation of why it seeks to seize particular funds. Then municipalities and other interested parties will have another 15 days to address that initial determination. The COAH Board is then required to hold a meeting to review the Director’s decision. – Thus, under the new process, COAH is prohibited from seizing the funds until they meet collectively to reach a final decision. All municipalities or interested parties may appeal any decision to the court.

Over the past several years, municipalities have struggled to build new homes because of COAH’s failure to approve their projects or to provide any guidance on how to show their funds are committed. If seized, thousands of low – income and special needs families, many of which still remain homeless after Hurricane Sandy, will lose the opportunity to live in a safe and affordable home. Some examples of these developments include 148 affordable apartments serving Sandy victims in Middle Township, Cape May County; 120 homes for people with special needs in Edison, Middlesex County; and over 50 new Habitat for Humanity homes throughout Morris County.

With only two days left until the August 2 deadline, municipalities, affordable and special needs developers, and other affected parties are, in a rare alliance, united to show why the Christie Administration is wrong on this issue. Though the Appellate Division decision created a new process and cast serious doubt on this effort, Christie continues his never-ending war to stop the building of homes that low income people desperately need. It’s all part of a broader agenda to make New Jersey homes less affordable for lower-income families – including Christie’s attempt to abolish COAH, which the Supreme Court stopped in their recent July 10, 2013 decision. Click here for a copy of the decision.  Us at Fair Share Housing Center and many other housing advocates, community groups and municipalities will continue to fight this overreach and monitor Christie’s continued attempt to take trust funds and keep Blue Jersey readers posted.

The New Jersey Comeback Kicks Back Again

Promoted by Bill Orr

Chris Christie’s reelection relies on the fawning coverage he receives from the media and the political cover he gets from worshipful Democrats.  Which is fortunate, because if it was about our economy, jobs, housing and the rest he’d be in deep spit.

New data on home prices show growing momentum in the country’s housing recovery, but an economist said the gains don’t tell the story in New Jersey, where the comeback still trails the national pace.

While the 1Q showed the first rise in housing prices since Christie took office, the nation has been rising for over a year and is doing so much faster than New Jersey. This led Patrick O’Keefe, director of economic research at Roseland-based CohnReznick, to say New Jersey has “not recovered at same pace as they have nationally” and “we were still proceeding at a much slower pace than the nation was on average.”

But, hey, Christie’s luster and campaign are not about actual results, no more than his time as US Attorney was.  It’s about image and bluster.

What’s Next After NJ Supreme Court Victory on COAH

Thanks, Fair Share Housing, for keeping us up-to-date on the fight for housing opportunities for low-income New Jerseyans, and for fighting Chris Christie’s attempt to exercise more power than he’s entitled to as governor.

Promoted by Rosi.

On June 10, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Governor Christie could not abolish the state’s Council on Affordable Housing, an independent state agency created in 1985 by the New Jersey Fair Housing Act, which requires every municipality allow a fair share of homes that lower-income families, seniors, and people with special needs can afford. Click here for a copy of the decision. This decision comes at critical time in the state’s history-while NJ faces an unprecedented housing crisis as it struggles to rebuild only 9 months after Hurricane Sandy.  

Appellate Division Stops Christie Administration from Seizing Affordable Housing Trust Funds

promoted by Rosi

On June 7, 2013, the New Jersey Appellate Division created a process the Council on Affordable Housing must follow before the Christie Administration can seize up to $165 million dollars in affordable housing trust funds needed to recover from Hurricane Sandy. As stated by NJ Chapter NAACP president, in his recent op-ed published in the Star Ledger, “At this time of extreme need, it is unbelievable the Christie Administration is attempting to seize these funds and stop the development of new homes.” Over the past few months, plans to build over 3,000 homes for victims of Sandy, people with special needs, and working families have been in limbo due to the Christie Administration’s aggressive and unlawful attempt to take this money. Over fifty percent of these funds were also designated to homes in the nine-counties hit hardest by the storm.  

Christie’s Trust Fund Raid Halted

promoted by Rosi

Today, Governor Christie handed Prince Harry a royal fleece as part of Sandy recovery. Unfortunately, the Christie Administration continues to royally fleece lower-income families displaced by Sandy. But a new court order holds out promise for the thousands of New Jersey residents still seeking a place to live after the storm.

Late yesterday afternoon, three judges from the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an order blocking the Christie administration’s seizure of up to $164 million in affordable housing trust funds. This marks the second time in the last year the Administration has attempted to seize funds intended to provide safe and affordable housing to our state’s poorest and most vulnerable families. A significant amount of these funds – 57 percent – were also already earmarked for towns in the nine counties hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

NJ Supreme Court Argument on Christie’s power to abolish independent agencies

Just a quick heads-up for those who might want to watch this happen, at 10am today, the NJ Supreme Court will heal oral argument in an appeal filed by Gov. Christie in which he argues that he has the power to abolish independent state agencies. It will be broadcast live from the 8th floor of the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.

Watch the proceedings live.

Background: Gov. Christie appealed a March 8, 2012 decision by an appellate court that ruled that his abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) violated state law. The panel found that NJ’s State Constitution and statutes do not allow Gov. Christie to abolish independent agencies. [Independent agencies include  ELEC, NJ Turnpike Authority, Rutgers, and COAH.] The decision has had broad ramifications, including ending the Governor’s attempt to eliminate Rutgers-Camden through a similar reorganization plan.

Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh:

“The Governor’s role under the constitution is to enforce the laws, not to make them. The Appellate Division got it right.  Gov. Christie does not have the power to abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like.  We need homes for working families, people with special needs, and seniors.  Putting the Governor in charge of housing policies he opposes is bad for working folks looking for homes in NJ.”

 

The appellate court, which relied on quotes from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the proper separation of powers in the original meaning of the Constitution, rejected Gov. Christie’s argument that the state Constitution gave him unlimited power to change the structure of state government.

 

Future of Fair Housing in NJ at Stake in Wed. Court Argument

promoted by Rosi

On Wednesday at 10 am, the New Jersey Supreme Court will consider a request by Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities to allow towns to exclude low- and moderate-income families, seniors, and people with special needs, reversing four decades of court rulings. The argument is the most important fair housing case in New Jersey in 30 years.

You can watch the hearing live or afterwards here.

The argument is about upholding a practical and fair solution that’s good for communities, and good for business. A broad and unusual array of groups – ranging from Fair Share Housing Center to the NAACP and Latino Action Network to special needs organizations to New Jersey’s Catholic Charities to the Housing and Community Development Network, New Jersey Future, and the American Planning Association to the New Jersey Builders Association and other business groups – have asked the Supreme Court to affirm existing law and require that every municipality allow for its fair share of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people.

Over the last few weeks, planners, community leaders, special needs housing providers, and civil rights leaders all speak out on the importance of housing opportunities for all citizens of New Jersey.  

The groups on the other side of the case – Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities – ask the Supreme Court to overturn four decades of fair housing law and risk the gains New Jersey, and the country, has made because of it. They would dismantle a system that a recent Princeton University study found has massive educational and economic impacts – such as a 25 percent increase in earnings and a 67 percent drop in welfare use.

More below the fold…

Massive 228% Jump In Foreclosure Filings

New foreclosure numbers out continue to undermine that talking point that New Jersey is experiencing anything close to a comeback under Chris Christie:

New Jersey’s foreclosure numbers continue to move in the opposite direction of the national figures, according to a new report today from RealtyTrac.

In September, 180,427 U.S. properties reported foreclosure filings – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. That amount represented a seven percent decrease from the previous month and a 16 percent drop from September 2011. Last month’s total was the lowest for the country since July 2007.

Christie will probably attack RealtyTrac and say it’s all just made up, but the increase in the NJ numbers is staggering:

The Garden State experienced its seventh straight month of year-over-year increases, as foreclosure filings jumped a massive 228% from September 2011 to September 2012. Blomquist said the state’s foreclosures numbers last year were at “artificially-low levels,” and the lenders are continuing to play catch-up.

It’s good to have context and an explanation for the increase, but that really doesn’t make the situation better. In fact, according to RealtyTrac one in every 1,020 housing units in New Jersey received a foreclosure filing in September. Meanwhile, when the Governor stopped in the state to visit, he chose to yell at a reporter who had the nerve to ask why he hadn’t spent most of the federal money that was waiting to help struggling homeowners. Because you know, that will make the problem better and keep people in their homes.  

A Governor Returns to his Roots

Several decades ago, East Camden was a middle-class blue collar neighborhood where a young man decided to raise his family. He worked as a night watchman to put himself through law school. In the years since, the East Camden neighborhood had deteriorated into block after block of vacant homes and rampant crime, and that young man left the neighborhood and became Governor of New Jersey. Today, he came back to his old neighborhood for a celebratory announcement. The full story and that governor’s comments are below the fold.

Triple veto by Christie on housing bills undermines NJ economic recovery

promoted by Rosi

Over the past several days, Gov. Christie took decisive action to weaken New Jersey’s economy by vetoing three important legislative initiatives to revive our troubled housing market.

Take it from the head of the NJ Association of Realtors talking to NJBiz:

According to New Jersey Association of Realtors CEO Jarrod Grasso, foreclosed properties – which are now hitting New Jersey’s residential real estate market at a record pace – “have been the albatross preventing true recovery in the state. . . . We’re hopeful that, though the governor doesn’t support this bill, that it will be called back to the table.”

That was about the New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act (S-1566/A-2168), which was supported by housing advocates, municipalities, bankers, special needs groups, and developers, to name a few. It would have reused foreclosed properties to create much-needed housing affordable to lower-income households.

Christie also vetoed bipartisan legislation (S-2011/A-2950), which would have extended the deadline to spend over $200 million in municipal housing trust funds by two years, and budget language which would have provided a safe harbor for municipalities to commit these trust funds rather than having them taken by the state for use in the General Fund.

Assemblyman and Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green issued a statement expressing his disappointment and frustration with the Governor’s action stating, “The governor spent a good amount of time yesterday talking about helping the people of New Jersey.  I’m not sure what segment of the population he was referring to, but it’s certainly not the working class families of New Jersey.  Under this administration, they are on their own.”

The Legislature really stepped up to the plate in seeking solutions to New Jersey’s housing crisis, in which foreclosure filings have climbed 86% in the past year and are at triple the national average. Longtime champions of fair housing among the Democratic majority such as Green, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman Albert Coutinho, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg worked hard to craft innovative and important solutions to this economic problem, and deserve praise for bringing together a wide array of support to move New Jersey’s housing market forward.

We also were glad to see leaders in the Governor’s own party including Senators Diane Allen, Christopher Connors, and Robert Singer, Assembly members DiAnne Gove, Amy Handlin, and David Wolfe, and mayors from throughout the state recognize the need to take action to fix New Jersey’s broken housing market.

More below about what comes next…