Tag Archive: Fair Share Housing Center

Poverty in a Wealthy State

Andrew Seidman’s article in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer reveals that in this wealthy state, one-third of all residents are living in poverty. Given Governor Christie’s disdain for the plight of average citizens, this should not come as a surprise. But…
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Be Careful What You Wish For, Governor

Four decades ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued what is known today as the Mount Laurel Decision – an interpretation of the state constitution that requires affordable housing be made available in the state’s municipalities. Ten years after that decision, the state legislature created the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), an agency that was charged with developing the regulations and approach to comply with the court’s order.

Chris Christie has never been a fan of affordable housing. From Day One of his administration, he has tried to eviscerate and neuter COAH. His minions stonewalled, met infrequently, and never satisfactorily executed the agency’s mission. This week, Christie got his wish. COAH is dead. But not in the way he wanted.

Because of the agency’s intransigence, the New Jersey Supreme Court stripped COAH of its powers and ordered local courts to start to ensure that the requirements for affordable housing are complied with.

The attorney who argued this case is Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center. I spoke with Walsh on the ongoing need for affordable housing in the state and the approach his organization will take to help meet that need.

Jump below the fold to see the interview, or for an audio podcast, click here.

NJ Supreme Court Acts Decisively on Affordable Housing

After years of inaction and failure to respond to court requests from the Christie administration and his Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), the New Jersey Supreme Court decided yesterday to take matters into its own hands and provide a remedy.  

When COAH had failed to promulgate Third Round Rules requested by the court by November 17, 2014, Fair Share Housing Center filed an instant motion. “The Court heard oral argument on January 6, 2015, and COAH’s representative admitted that COAH has not conducted or scheduled any meetings since its last meeting in October 2014, that it does not have any plans to meet further in an effort to adopt Third Round Rules, and that staff have not been directed to perform any work in furtherance of adoption of Third Round Rules.”

Yesterday the court ruled as a remedy that “towns must subject themselves to judicial review for constitutional compliance, as was the case before the Fair Housing Act was enacted.”

This ruling should help people of low and moderate income seeking much needed affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

For individuals interested in learning more about yesterday’s unanimous decision, below the fold are a few key paragraphs from the court’s syllabus on this decision.  

Sandy Recovery Funding: Will the Second Time Be a Charm?

The Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan in its 7th substantial amendment has been undergoing considerable scrutiny. If approved by HUD it will set the rules for the disbursement of the next $1.46 billion in federal Sandy recovery funds. Things did not go well with the initial allocation of $1.8 billion in 2013. This round there have been robust public comments, criticism and anger. Maybe Sandy Czar Marc Ferzan and Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable, who administers the program, will get it right this time.

There have been allegations that the 1st round funding was used to help Christie get re-elected. In addition, Fair Share Housing Center criticized it for “an overall lack of organization and planning and raising questions about the fairness of distribution of funds being too favorable toward home owners as opposed to renters.” During Christie’s “Town Halls” recently he has seen protesters and received more than earful of complaints about delays, paperwork, and vague waiting lists. An unresponsive contractor, HGI, which was paid exceedingly well, botched its job, and ended up with its contract quietly terminated for reasons that suggested both the DCA and HGI were at fault.

What’s Happening Today Tue. 02/04/2014

More evidence piles up that our fleece-clad super hero of Sandy may have fleeced (or over-rewarded) a number of Sandy-damaged towns and people for political reasons, discriminated against Latino and African-American applicants and renters, received large contributions from contractors through the RGA, and mishired and then had to fire a major Sandy housing contractor which had contributed to the RGA. And let’s not forget the no-bid, over-priced AshBritt debris removal firm whose lobbyist held a $3,800 per person fundraiser for Christie, with AshBritt later forced to return some of the money it overcharged municipalities.  

A shadowy figure behind Christie’s Sandy recovery program is “Czar” Marc Ferzan, who (unsurprisingly) used to work for Christie in the U. S. Attorney’s Office. Ferzan is a  powerful senior Christie staff member but seldom seen or heard. It would normally be unusual for such a high ranking official with a critically important job to hide from the public and speak through teleconferences. Of course Christie wants to take all the credit, but recently there has been increasing blame. Ferzan held one of his press teleconferences yesterday where he said, “Politics has played absolutely no role in disaster recovery.” Given past (and likely future) information, he would have a difficult time defending that position at an open give-and-take press conference. See why below the fold.

What’s Happening Today Wed. 12/04/2013

Substandard Health Insurance Policies: New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and consumer advocates release today a report on substandard health plans and the impact they could have. Advocates will highlight the full range of options open to consumers receiving cancellation notices. See the report here or join a teleconference at Noon (866-740-1260 Code: 7483644). NJPP is also renewing its call for the State to utilize without delay the $7.6 million remaining from a state planning grant to educate New Jerseyans and ensure consumers are fully informed of their choices. 

Fair Share Housing Center says documents it obtained through litigation against the Christie Administration indicate, “Guidelines for major Sandy programs were not adopted until after the administration chose who got the funds.” For more information on what Fair Share uncovered go here. On Monday Christie displayed his displeasure with this group’s gaining access to the documents. He called them a “hack group” – a sure sign they are onto something.

AIDS Awareness Week: As David Cruz on NJTV News reminded us, “Newark has always – and still does – lead the state in HIV/AIDS cases. In 2012, there were more than 14,000 Newarkers living with the disease. That’s close to 70 percent of the cases statewide.” Across the country, there are 56,000 new HIV infections every year. Dr. Eddie Jumper of North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) says, “The real crisis is the countless others who may be engaging in high-risk activity – like unprotected sex and sharing needles – who just don’t know their HIV status.” He adds, “Get tested.” View the 3-minute segment on NJTV News, including David Cruz taking an HIV test. (Disclosure: I am the founder and past E.D. of NJCRI.)

Give me a break: The Star-Ledger reports, “They compare him to French President Charles de Gaulle at the end of World War II. They call him a ‘happy warrior.’ But above all, the staff members of GQ bestowed a new honor on Gov. Chris Christie: “Boss of the Year 2013.”

“Let the guessing begin on what changes are in store for Gov. Chris Christie’s cabinet.” That question was raised by Bob Jordan at APP.com who adds that when Christie announced some personnel tweaks in his administration Monday, he said, “You’ll be seeing a lot of me in these next few weeks as we have more of these kinds of announcements.” As Christie increases his out-of-State travel he must want to ensure a loyal, competent staff to carry out his agenda. What changes do you guess are coming?

EVENTS TODAY

Gov. Chris Christie: No public events scheduled today.

Port Authority NY/NJ Board of Commissioners: Meeting at 1:30pm, 225 Park Avenue South, NY, NY. The Authority continues its obfuscation regarding the closing of the Fort Lee access lanes to the George Washington Bridge by claiming it was part of a traffic study. However, the Authority has provided no documentation to support that claim. Of course such has not stopped the Authority from yet another toll increase which just went into effect. Once again New Jerseyans are paying more while the majority of the revenue is applied to NY projects.

U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance: A telephone town-hall meeting from 5:30pm to 6:30pm. To find out how to join the call, you can contact his office at (908) 518-7733. On Facebook he is saying, ACA “remains unworkable and deserves to be repealed.”

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez: is at West New York Public School 3 which will be renamed after him at 11:00am in West New York.  

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.  

Sandy restoration without rose-tinted glasses

Our governor provides us with the good news version of Sandy restoration, but there is also another view. Until a few weeks ago, Ron Dabal’s two-bedroom cottage on Colony Road was entombed in sand. It had been dumped there by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29 and sat unmoved for five months, waiting for someone to haul it off. No one came.” A recent Monmouth University poll indicates that while two thirds of those in the hardest hit areas are now back to normal, about 1-in-7 are far from recovery, and that there is a dip in confidence over how federal aid is being spent.

  •  The Record revealed over the past week that AshBritt inflated the distance debris was hauled in order to obtain higher rates.

  •  New Jersey Future expressed disappointment in the “$1.8 billion Community Development Block Grant revised program proposed by the the Governor and then approved and modified by the feds because it did not address “planning for sea-level rise, identifying optimal places for buy-outs, analyzing regional vulnerabilities, incorporating green infrastructure to reduce the impacts of flooding, developing county and local hazard mitigation plans, and aligning investments behind a set of resiliency and sustainability principles.”  

  •  Regarding the revised program Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) thanked U.S. HUD Secretary Donovan for recognizing that the Christie Administration had not proposed enough in recovery to support renters, Spanish speaking families, and lower-income people impacted by the storm. FSHC said, “HUD’s action today is a good start, but more work remains to ensure that everyone impacted in Sandy has a place.”

  •  Patch indicates, Christie vetoed a Sandy oversight bill saying, “it’s redundant because the State Comptroller is tasked with Sandy oversight and already maintains such a transparency website.” Actually, a review of the Sandy Transparency Website shows it currently lists some 70 state and local Sandy contract awards but provides no information on expenditures – critical data for any transparency.  

  • 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…

    Blue Jersey Focus – Adam Gordon on Affordable Housing

    Recently, Governor Christie decided to re-appropriate funds for affordable housing to the general fund in order to help balance the budget and justify tax breaks for the wealthy. Along with the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the Fair Share Housing Center took the administration to court and won a partial victory. Before the governor can steal the funds from the municipalities, the court ordered that an appeals process needed to be followed.

    It’s a complex issue, and to better understand it, I visited Fair Share Housing Center Staff Attorney (and Blue Jersey writer) Adam Gordon in his Cherry Hill office to help sort things out.