Affordable Housing Solutions Needed Now

August 19, 2012

By. Paul T. Fader
As Published In The Record

There aren't many people on either side of the political spectrum who don't agree that New Jersey's affordable housing requirements need to be reformed.

The seemingly endless battle over the fate of the Council on Affordable Housing has many New Jersey municipalities in doubt over their spending plans. Some wonder if trust fund dollars will once again materialize while others are unsure of what their future obligations will be to provide affordable housing in their community.

The air of uncertainty has also encompassed New Jersey's residential real estate market, as developers are hesitant to begin new development projects without being assured of how many units they will have to set aside under affordable housing requirements.

The latest twist in the COAH saga occurred in June as the state Supreme Court refused to stay an appellate court ruling that barred Governor Christie from abolishing the council.

In March 2012, the appellate court found that the governor "exceeded his authority" under the state constitution by attempting to eliminate an agency created by the Legislature.

As this issue continues to work its way through the legal system toward a highly uncertain conclusion, the effects can be seen in both urban and suburban communities throughout the state.

Many of New Jersey's suburban municipalities are either not in compliance with current affordable housing requirements or are so close to the minimum requirement levels that just a few residential units may render their municipality non-compliant.

At the same time, many of New Jersey's urban municipalities are looking to approve commercial, residential and mixed-use redevelopment projects that would revitalize blighted neighborhoods. These large-scale redevelopment projects are now stymied by the uncertainty of affordable housing requirements and the availability of trust fund dollars.

There aren't many people on either side of the political spectrum who don't agree that New Jersey's affordable housing requirements need to be reformed. However, the extent of this type of reform and the manner in which the state goes about implementing this reform remains in dispute.

The Supreme Court has ruled that our state needs an immediate legislative solution to deal with these long-term housing requirements. However, real solutions, real change and real reform only occur when all the stakeholders are part of the process and solution. The time is now for state leaders to bring the affordable housing community, the development community and municipal leaders from both urban and suburban communities together.

Governor Christie and members of the Legislature owe it to our state to work expeditiously to develop an acceptable alternative to COAH that works for all those effected by it.

Anything less than a sincere effort to establish new affordable housing requirements will continue to hinder the growth of our residential real estate market and our overall economy ? and that is something New Jersey cannot afford.

To read the piece as it ran in the August 19th Sunday Edition of The Record, click here.

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