Affordable housing deals face crackdown Bill would close loophole used by wealthy suburbs
Tuesday, January 16, 2007 BY TOM HESTER Star-Ledger Staff
Calling it “blood money” that shuts poorer people out of many New Jersey communities, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts wants to scrap a long-standing state program that allows one municipality to pay another to take on its responsibility for building low- and moderate-income housing.
Since 1988, 120 mostly upper- and middle-class suburban towns have paid $210 million to poorer communities — mainly cities and older suburbs — that agreed to use the money for affordable housing.
Under the deals — known as RCAs, for “regional contribution agreements” — cities get much-needed cash while other towns are spared up to half their obligations as they comply with court rulings that declared even the richest communities must provide affordable housing for poorer residents.
Roberts (D-Camden) has introduced a bill that would ban future RCAs, which he called “veiled racism.” State Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) supports the bill, which also has been introduced in the upper house by Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex).
“The use of RCAs is deplorable and results in a concentration of poverty in urban New Jersey and denies New Jerseyans the dream that they ought to be allowed to live anywhere in the state,” Roberts said. “New Jersey is among the most-segregated states in the nation, and I believe RCAs and our housing policy overall have a lot to do with that.”
The bill, however, faces strong opposition from officials on the municipal level.
“While I agree the suburbs should build affordable housing, the remedy is far worse and far more destructive to families that want and need housing in cities,” said Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, whose city has accepted $22.6 million in RCA money, more than any other municipality.