Tag Archive: Affordable

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.

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.  

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.

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

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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…

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.

A Tale of Two Towns: Marlboro Housing Plan Tossed Out, Union Township Approved

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In a decision issued this morning, Marlboro Township (Monmouth County), was removed from the protections of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) because the Council found that the municipality “consistently failed to demonstrate good faith” in meeting its housing obligations.  

At the same meeting, the Council approved the housing plans of Union Township (Union County), along with Cresskill Borough (Bergen County).

The comparison between Marlboro Township and Union Township gives a good perspective on what a sound housing policy looks like, and the deep flaws with S-1, which failed to pass the Legislature this spring. Marlboro Township was a prime proponent of S-1; Union Township – ironically the location of the office of S-1 sponsor Sen. Ray Lesniak, along with Assembly Majority Leader Joe Cryan – was deemed “exclusionary” by S-1 despite the town’s diversity and history of compliance with its legal obligations.

Marlboro Township has a history of flagrantly violating the state’s housing laws that would be comical if it weren’t true. Find out why below the fold….

Assembly refuses to rush S-1; plans to work on comprehensive housing policy for the fall

Thanks for the shout-out. Promoted by Rosi Efthim

June 30 has come and gone – the day that Gov. Christie and Sen. Lesniak had set as their deadline for passing S1, the deeply flawed and unconstitutional proposal to overhaul New Jersey’s housing policy. Thanks to an upswell of opposition to S1 and to the leadership of Speaker Sheila Oliver, Majority Leader Joe Cryan, Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee Chair and Vice-Chair Jerry Green and Mila Jasey, and Assembly Economic Growth Committee Chair Al Coutinho, S1 did not pass. Instead, the Legislature will work on alternative approaches to changing New Jersey’s housing policy over the summer.

Looking back, June was quite a busy month for those who opposed S1:

June 3 – S1 voted out of Senate Economic Growth committee. Although there was a strong showing of opposition from a wide range of groups, Sen. Lesniak did not allow any testimony at the hearing.  

June 3 – Statement released by every Catholic Bishop in New Jersey in opposition to S1 and support of Mount Laurel doctrine.

June 7 – Star-Ledger editorial opposing S1 process; further editorials throughout June from Asbury Park Press, Courier-News, Home News Tribune, New Jersey Law Journal also oppose the bill.

June 9 – Over 100 civil rights, environmental, special needs and supportive housing, religious, and labor groups release statement in opposition to S1.

June 10 – S1 was passed by the Senate. Senator Rice, Turner and Weinberg voted no.  The following Senators abstained or did not vote:  Allen, Madden Jr., Ruiz, Ciesla, Norcross, Vitale, Doherty and Smith. Sen. Norcross shortly after criticizes the bill as unfair to South Jersey, and Sen. Weinberg releases a statement explaining her no vote.

June 15 – A coalition of over 15 groups propose an alternative approach instead of S1 in a Trenton press conference, including the NAACP, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, New Jersey Regional Coalition, Sierra Club, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Supportive Housing Association, and Coalition on Affordable Housing and Environment.

June 17 – The Assembly Housing and Local Government committee held a hearing on S1.  Everyone who signed up was able to testify, providing the first open public hearing on the bill.  The hearing took almost four hours, and large flaws with the bill were vocalized with overwhelming opposition to the bill. At the end of the hearing, the committee decided not to take a vote.

June 24 – The Assembly Budget committee voted out A3055, extending suspension of statewide non-residential development fee to October 30, 2010, to the full Assembly. After Assembly votes to pass the bill with overwhelming support, Senate refuses to hear it.

June 26 – Despite vocal statements by the Christie administration and Sen. Lesniak alluding to having the bill on Christie’s desk by the end of the month, Speaker Oliver quoted by the Star-Ledger stating, “[S1] will not get a vote in committee this summer but we hope to get it to a point where we can vote on it in the fall.”

As we celebrate an interim victory, we look forward to working with the wide range of groups opposed to S1 and legislative leadership this summer to come up with a better approach to New Jersey’s housing policy, expanding on the joint proposal presented at the June 15 press conference.

We would like to thank Assembly Speaker Oliver, Majority Leader Cryan, Committee Chairs Green and Coutinho, and Vice-Chair Jasey, along with Sens. Norcross, Rice, Turner, and Weinberg, for their efforts to slow the rapid movement of the bill. We now hope that they will work to see that the best possible bill presented to the Legislature in the fall.

Most of all, we thank those 100-plus groups, and all of you on BlueJersey who worked hard to stop what seemed like, in the words of the Asbury Park Press, a “runaway train” and had faith in the democratic process. There were so many people who we would have never met except through BlueJersey that played a critical role in stopping S1 – thanks so much to all of you! As I said at the Bloggers Breakfast at the DfA training this Sunday, nobody should understimate the power of the BlueJersey community to help push important public policy in NJ.

Special thanks also go to the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which partnered with us in leading the opposition to S1.  

We know we have a long road still ahead of us, and we look forward to walking it with you together.

Affordable Housing Reform

On Monday morning at 10 a.m., the Senate Economic Growth committee is considering legislation that would change our affordable housing laws.  Wealthy suburban municipalities are driving much of this effort and are doing what they have always done – working so that they can welcome only the rich into their towns while leaving many working folks and the poor to live in towns where there are few jobs and frequently underachieving schools.