A housing obligation

We found this in the Star-Ledger this morning and wanted to share their editorial opinion with you.

A housing obligation

Monday, January 22, 2007

Drive to Exit 8A on the New Jersey Turnpike and signs of growth are everywhere in towns like Cranbury, Monroe and Plainsboro. Good schools, safe neighborhoods and jobs make the area attractive.

Yet, even during a housing boom, these towns aren’t building affordable housing. From 1988 to 2006, Cranbury footed the bill for 76 affordable housing units in Perth Amboy and another 34 in Carteret, even though plans call for 4,590 units to be built in Cranbury from 2005 to 2030.

Similarly, Monroe has plans to build 12,200 units by 2030. But it is funding 115 affordable units in New Brunswick. Plainsboro is doing the same by put ting 25 units in New Brunswick.

These towns aren’t unique. Despite a string of court rulings in the past 20 years requiring New Jersey municipalities to zone and otherwise encourage construction of their “fair share” of affordable housing, suburban towns have dodged that duty simply by writing checks to nearby cities.

For roughly $20,000, they can keep one low-income family out of town.

These insidious arrangements, called regional contribution agreements, allow towns to get rid of 50 percent of their “fair share” affordable housing obligations. Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) has introduced a bill banning them.

Politically, many may view his bill as a nonstarter since RCAs have been embraced by both urban and suburban mayors, but it is worthy of serious consideration.

An attractive provision of the bill is that it would offer an alternative to RCAs by setting aside $15 million a year — money earmarked for affordable housing — to continue efforts to rehabilitate housing in cities and elsewhere. And, while the bill would ban RCAs, it encourages towns to come up with other methods to provide realistic opportunities for affordable housing, including donating land, providing tax abatements and using state and federal funds.

To read the full editorial click here.

To read Assembly Bill A3857 click here. To find out the status click here.