Tag Archive: COAH

New Report: Christie Making NJ Unaffordable for Middle Class

promoted by Rosi

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.  

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.

Flooding? Blame the poor.

We’re all familiar with religious right whack-job Pat Robertson’s tendency to blame natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake on things like US abortion policy and 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution (which he characterized as “a pact with the devil”).

Assemblyman Scott Rumana (R-Wayne Township) channeled Pat Robertson in an asinine and offensive April Fool’s Day press release that, sadly, did not appear to be a joke. In his press release, Rumana blamed affordable housing advocates for at least some of the damage caused be recent flooding in his district.

Claims by so-called affordable housing advocates that wealthy municipalities want to build walls that exclude working New Jerseyans, seniors, and people with special needs are completely unfounded.

The only walls the communities in the district I represent want built are flood walls thanks to the flooding that has been made worse due to mandated ‘affordable housing’ overdevelopment and flawed policies like bonus density. I urge these self-proclaimed advocates to come see how devastating their misguided policies have been in communities in the Passaic River Basin.

Rumana’s remarks are not only disgraceful, they’re also misleading. Anyone who blames COAH for overdevelopment in New Jersey is either lying or misinformed.

According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (running from 2005 to 2009), only 4% of the owner-occupied units in Wayne Township were valued at less than $200,000. More than half were worth more than $500,000. More than 3/4 of renters in the Township paid more $1,000 per month. Granted, housing prices are lower now than they were then, but that isn’t “affordable housing” in any economy.

Wayne Township is overdeveloped not because of anything affordable housing advocates have done, but because local government officials allowed developers to blanket their town with large single family homes and McMansions.

Gov. Christie’s Inaction on Housing Threatens NJ Economy

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer today, the creation of jobs and construction of homes are jeopardized in New Jersey by Gov. Christie’s inaction on removing regulatory barriers to development of starter homes.  The article points out that in the Governor’s State of the State speech last week he spoke of “finding the path to growth” in New Jersey, but yet has failed to make progress on a number of policies important on economic stimulus, including housing reform.

As the Inquirer article reports, NAIOP New Jersey Chapter, New Jersey Business & Industry Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, New Jersey Builders Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce have all signed a public letter to Governor Christie.  While the letter praises the Governor for his efforts to make New Jersey “more business friendly and a place that will incentivize investment”; it also implores him to sign S1/A3447 as a “workable affordable housing policy” needed to “accelerate economic growth”. The letter mentions support for the bill’s elimination of the Council on Affordable Housing, elimination of the 2.5 percent commercial development fee, and clear municipal obligations.

The letter describes a workable  affordable housing policy as one that will ” a) provide those who desperately need affordable housing with the opportunity to find such housing; b) create a system that allow municipalities to more appropriately manage growth, including both market rate and affordable housing; c) create realistic and attainable affordable housing goals that allow development community to work hand in hand with local governments. . .”

We share the business community’s desire for a workable housing policy that will help the economy rebound. While we believe that the municipal obligations in S1/A3447 are too low, we agree that the bill does provide a workable and predictable framework to get homes built. If Gov. Christie does not move forward with the legislation, he has an alternative route to get the economy moving and homes built: complying with the Appellate Division’s order to expeditiously develop new COAH rules.

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has ordered the Christie Administration to stop delaying new COAH rules for municipal obligations for low- and moderate-income homes. These new rules would return to the predictable, well-known system in place in the 1980s and 1990s in New Jersey which created nearly 60,000 homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people.  The Court is requiring a sworn certification from DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa every two weeks on progress towards new rules, with the first certification due on January 28, 2011. The Court also said that it would consider appointing a special master to oversee the agency depending on the content of the first report.

The order, which is available  here, comes after the Christie Administration openly admitted to the Court that it would not meet a court-imposed deadline of March 8, 2011 for implementation of new rules for the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). The Court in an October 8, 2010 decision invalidated COAH’s prior rules as unconstitutionally giving too much discretion to municipal regulation. The Christie Administration, in a January 10 filing with the Court, said that it was not working on the rules and would not meet the deadline, even though the Court had already explicitly denied COAH permission to delay adopting the rules, a decision that COAH has now appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The foot- dragging by the Administration has a detrimental domino effect.   Municipalities are reluctant to build needed starter homes because they are waiting for potential changes in obligation with the third round COAH rules or new housing legislation.  Builders are stuck not knowing if their projects will move forward, and working families, low-income seniors and those with special needs are missing out on housing opportunities.

The “path to growth” Gov. Christie seeks for New Jersey cannot occur without a workable and constitutional resolution of the state’s housing policy that will provide predictability for the business community and municipalities and meet the market demand for starter homes throughout the state.

News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Governor Christie presents his “State of the State” Address at 2:00 PM. today, and you can listen to it here or via NJN News.

The Why, Who, What, and Where about the speech.

Meanwhile FDU poll now shows Christie’s favorable-to-unfavorable opinion rating is 47%-39%. 53% of voters approve of the way he is handling his job as governor, while 36% disapprove.

Then later today you can get out your shovel or snow blower as our winter wonderland adventure is expected to resume.

In spite of tough questions from Weinberg, Sarlo, and Girgenti

Reform Jersey Now Treasurer Ron Gravino wins committee approval (7-5) as a Turnpike Commissioner.

Legislature abolishes COAH, 2.5% fee on commercial development,

and reduces some municipalities’ obligations to provide housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Progressive Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) takes oath of office,

and assumes position formerly held by now Sen. Linda Greenstein.

‘Back to Work’ and more, below the fold.

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

Under The Dome

TICKLER FILE  

Anti-Bullying – Governor Christie still has not signed this bill which was passed November 22. The bill automatically becomes law if he does not sign it in within about 45 days, but he also has the option of vetoing or conditionally vetoing it. Will our bully veto an anti-bullying bill? Seems unlikely, but he’s taking his time.

Federal ARC funds – Will Christie remit $271 million to the Feds by December 24? Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered to return $128 million of the $271 million the feds are charging the state, and deposit that money into a fund to be used for future New Jersey transportation projects.

“Keep the N in NJN” – There has been a compromise which cedes authority to the State Treasurer to negotiate a sale with the legislature retaining the right to approve any deal. As a result Christie granted NJN a reprieve with additional funding to operate through next June. The only thing clear about NJN’s future is that Christie wants its staff off the State payroll. With so much uncertainty some have been obliging him by seeking employment elsewhere. Let’s get a good deal done and soon!

“I got the horse right here. Can do, can do.” – With enthusiasts supporting the continuation of Meadowlands horse racing and legislators seeking to make it happen, Governor Christie announced on Friday the state will fund the operations and purses of the Meadowlands for the first three months of next year while the Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association of New Jersey negotiates a lease to turn control of the track to an investor. “This guy says the horse can do.”

MONDAY SENATE FLOOR VOTES BELOW  

Marcia Karrow’s reward: $148,000 / year

Rough stuff. – promoted by Rosi

Let me be up-front on this one:  I don’t care for Marcia Karrow.  The most recent reason is that she was the campaign manager for my opponent for Mayor of Flemington, and printed outright lies about my record.  She’s also working hard right now to use her influence to regulate-away her next-door neighbor’s kids chicken coop.  But that’s not what I’m writing about today…

Yesterday, she was named Executive Director of the NJ Meadowlands Commission.  The $148,000 annual salary is her reward for being a loyal Christie supporter.

The simple fact is that she has no experience directing an agency of this size, and a clear agenda to dismantle signfiicant state environmental regulations.  She was, folks should also recall, Christie’s campaign coordinator in Hunterdon County. She was tapped to chair his transition committee about the DEP, and was later tapped by Christie to lead the effort to dismantle COAH.  She has long been an opponent of the Highlands Protection Act, dating to her time as a member of the NJ Assembly.

{more after the fold}

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…