Tag Archive: housing

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…

Blue Jersey Focus – Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle – Part 2

Below is the second half of my interview with Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle (recorded yesterday). She talks about the environment, affordable housing, marriage equality, and the political landscape in Trenton.

If you missed part 1 yesterday, you can find it at this link. Vainieri-Huttle discussed her accomplishments with Anti-Bullying legislation, the status of legislation on women’s health, education, and the Port of New York New Jersey Authority.

With NJ homelessness on the rise, the special needs community is disproportionately affected

According to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress, released by HUD, homelessness rose 4.3% in New Jersey from 2009 to 2010.  This is particularly disturbing because many New Jersey municipalities continue to zone only large low-density lots preventing the opportunity for construction of much needed starter homes, group homes and special needs housing.

In a “friend of the court” brief by  Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey and the Corporation for Supportive Housing  to aid the New Jersey Supreme Court pending analysis of growth share calculations of the Council on Affordable Housing Third Round Rules, special needs providers urge the court to ensure homes are available.

The special needs community is the most discriminated population when looking for housing.  The average person with special needs pays 112.1% of their monthly income to rent a modest one-bedroom unit.  Nationally most tenants with psychiatric disabilities are too poor to afford housing at market rates and many operators or public housing and subsidized housing are unwilling to rent to them.  Persons with a disability are at higher risk of homelessness because a disability, particularly one relating to substance abuse or mental health, can make it difficult to work and earn enough to afford housing.

Nearly four in ten sheltered adults (36.8 percent) have a disability, compared to 24.6 percent of the poverty population and 15.3 percent of the total U.S. population. Thus, a homeless adult is nearly 2.5 times more likely to have a disability than an adult in the U.S. population as a whole.  

With rumors of legislative changes to New Jersey affordable housing, and pending analysis of growth share calculations by the New Jersey Supreme Court, one thing remains quite obvious, a system must remain in place that creates affordable homes for everyone, but especially the special needs communities.

Copy of brief can be found here.

Court Rules That Christie Administration Must Stop Approving Zoning That Excludes Families

promoted by Rosi

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court today invalidated a state agency decision that allowed municipalities to pass zoning ordinances excluding up to one-third of all families in the state.  As a result of the decision, families of New Jersey’s hard working waitresses, school bus drivers, and nursing home aides will have greater opportunities to live in municipalities that previously adopted policies that barred them from living in towns where they work.

The decision reverses a policy instituted by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) under the Corzine Administration and continued and defended in court by the Christie Administration.  COAH approved the Blairstown Township’s housing plan in 2009 despite the fact that Blairtown had no included opportunities for families working at entry-level jobs.  The agency had previously required muncipalites to adopt zoning policies that included low-income families, but backed down from enforcing that requirement in response to pressure from wealthy municipalities.

New Jersey Supreme Court to Hear Housing Appeals

The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to review the October 8, 2010 Appellate Division decision that invalidated the Council on Affordable Housing’s (COAH) flawed Third Round regulations.  The Court’s decision is in response to request filed by 13 municipalities and the New Jersey Leaque of Muncipalities that want the Court to relieve them of the obligation to provide zoning for starter homes for New Jersey’s working families.  The muncipalities have the support of the Christie Administration, which has called for allowing wealthy municipalities to build walls that exclude lower income New Jerseyans, seniors, and people with special needs.

In a brief filed with the Court, the Christie Administration supported policies that will allow towns to abuse their powers and exclude working people by prohibiting all housing from being built or only allowing large, expensive housing on large lots in the same towns where significant job growth is expected.

For over three decades, New Jersey towns have been required to allow homes for low-income working families, seniors and people with special needs and Fair Share Housing Center remains optimistic that the Supreme Court will again hold that municipal zoning may not be used to block the market for starter homes.  Zoning that allows for a fair share of affordable homes is right thing for our state and our economy.

With his conditional veto, Gov. Christie ok’s cities and towns excluding lower-income households

promoted by Rosi

Yesterday, Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the housing legislation that was passed by the Legislature earlier this month.  In doing so, he called on the Legislature to adopt revised legislation that would allow municipalities to completely exclude lower-income households.  

His proposed amendments would allow municipalities to determine their housing obligations and would reimpose growth share, a failed system that has been rejected twice by the courts as unconstitutional because it allowed municipalities to avoid their regional low- and moderate-income housing obligations.

Should the proposed amendments become law, New Jersey’s housing policy will be set back four decades as New Jersey’s most wealthy, job-rich towns can keep out regular working people who are bus drivers, waitresses, and public employees.  We are very disappointed that the governor has sided with wealthy towns that have a history of unreasonably preventing starter homes and apartments from being built.  

The decision also puts the Governor at odds with the business community, who called on him to sign the legislations he conditionally vetoed. The business community believed the legislation would be successful in helping the economy rebound. Unfortunately Governor Christie has chosen to side with the discriminatory towns, and rejected the demands of the business community.

The governor’s press statement is available  here.  The conditional veto he signed is available here.

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.  

Mary and Joseph visit the Statehouse Looking for a Home

This happened Thursday in Trenton, and was written just after. We held the promotion till today. – promoted by Rosi

This morning, clergy and laypeople from around New Jersey gathered in Trenton, led by Mary and Joseph, to walk the halls of the Statehouse looking for a home. The walk, building off of the Latin American Las Posadas tradition, visited the Governor’s office, Senate and Assembly Majority and Minority Offices, the Senate Budget Committee, and Assembly Telecommunications Committee to deliver a Christmas message that all of our communities should make “room at the inn” for hard working New Jersey families.

The Interfaith Community Action Network group, led by Rev. Julia Hamilton of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry, Fr. Tim Graff of the Newark Archdiocese, Marlene Lao-Collins of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, Rev. Bruce Davidson of the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry, and clergy and laypeople from Camden, East Brunswick, Lodi, Princeton, Summit, and Trenton, to name a few, greeted lobbyists and elected officials. A pregnant Mary and a staff-carrying Joseph showed up in committee hearings, legislative offices, and the Governor’s office to ask participants in the Trenton scene to take a minute to think about the Christmas story, and the meaning of there being no room at the inn.

“In many New Jersey towns, Mary and Joseph would definitely not be welcome today – they would just be seen as a bringing a poor child into the school system which would mean property taxes might go up.”

Rev. Davidson said.

more below the fold

Business leaders: bad housing bill = jobs going to PA

promoted by Rosi

While the Legislature and Gov. Christie fiddle with a badly flawed housing bill, NJ’s economy burns – especially in the cradle of the state’s economic strength in the 80s and 90s, the Route One corridor.

A joint op-ed today by a cross-section of non-profits and business leaders in the Ledger calls the Route One corridor – “Einstein’s Alley” between Rutgers and Princeton – “poorly positioned to attract private sector investment as the economy rebounds.” It suggests that Educational Testing Services – one of the main employers – is considering moving future jobs to Pennsylvania because its employees can’t find homes here. And it says that municipalities in the Route One corridor, based on a study by PlanSmart NJ, will only allow one home for every four new jobs (as compared to a historic one to one ratio) – which will produce Los Angeles-style traffic congestion by 2025.

Hello? Is anyone in the State House listening?

Instead of addressing this problem, which stems from, according to the article, “too little zoning for housing,” the Legislature seems bent on making it worse. The Housing and Local Government on Monday passed a bill that would expand municipalities’ ability to turn down starter homes and apartments. Which would likely lead to even fewer homes in the Route One corridor. And more jobs moving out of state.

The op-ed calls for a better approach to state laws on housing and planning. That approach would focus a wide range of new homes – for families at all income levels plus seniors and people with special needs – near jobs and transportation. If towns like West Windsor and Plainsboro are going to see massive job growth, they should not be able to turn down homes for the people working in those jobs.

Then again, if the Legislature moves forward with its current proposal, the jobs just might follow the homes, as the CEO of ETS hints in the article – all the way to Pennsylvania.

Assembly moves expensive homes bill forward despite unanimous opposition

promoted by Rosi

A packed house of civil rights leaders, environmentalists, municipal officials, special needs groups, developers, and religious groups showed up in State House Committee Room 11 at noon today for a November surprise: a hearing on a housing bill that had been substantially rewritten, with a thick packet of amendments handed out after the meeting already started.

“Even some lawyers might have a problem understanding the language in this particular bill,” Chairman Jerry Green said near the start – and indeed, audience members and even committee members were puzzling over what, exactly, the many new changes sprung at the last minute mean. Apparently, according to Chairman Green, there were a series of meetings earlier this morning with various groups (though we confirmed that no housing groups, environmentalists, civil rights groups, or special needs groups were invited) that led to these changes. Even DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa said she had not seen these changes in her extensive remarks opposing the bill.

The bill changes don’t fix the critical flaws with the bill: that in all instances developers can pay a fee that will then sit in a fund for years instead of actually building homes; and that towns can comply based on homes that cost as much as $600,000.

And the changes didn’t really seem to please anyone (which was kind of a surprise to many groups that were excluded from the morning meeting and thought some kind of deal had been cut). The key takeaway message: NOBODY testified in support of the bill. All opposed – for many overlapping reasons and some differing reasons – include the Christie Administration, the NAACP, League of Municipalities, New Jersey Builders Association, NAIOP, the Housing and Community Development Network, the New Jersey Regional Coalition, the Sierra Club, the Highlands Coalition, the Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment, the (usually fairly nonpartisan) New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association, New Jersey Future, and the Chamber of Commerce.

To name a few.

It’s usually kind of hard to pass legislation that nobody supports. Yet the committee voted to pass the bill anyway, 4 in favor, one abstaining (Vandervalk), one opposed (Carroll), and one absent (Greenstein, whose district would be hit particularly hard by the bill’s strange “expensive homes” requirement, the subject of a report we released today.

So what’s happening here? It seems like there is a lot of pressure to do something based on a fear that they will get attacked by the Governor and a feeling among many, including Chair Green, that they have sat on the issue long enough. And everyone agrees – they should do something – we need a more effective state housing policy.

But the details seem to have gotten kind of mixed up, with a hodge podge of ideas from Green and other Assembly leaders (many of which are quite good) and Ray Lesniak seeking to preserve aspects of his now-infamous S-1 legislation (many of which are quite bad). The result is a stew that nobody really seems to like, and that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when  put together. Some exurban towns like Jackson and Woolwich have to build thousands of homes costing as much as $600,000; others have to do nothing; and still others are just going to collect more “payment in lieu” fees when they are already sitting on millions of dollars in unspent past fees, a problem that caused committee members, especially Asm. Scalera, considerable consternation during the debate.

They moved the bill out of committee; but it’s hard to see this ending up being what happens. Because, well, legislation doesn’t usually pass that nobody supports.

We will keep you posted when we know more on the next step of this continually unusual process…