Put affordable homes throughout the state

This was an editorial in today’s Courier-Post.

Lawmakers must stop allowing wealthy suburbs to reduce their obligation to provide for affordable housing.

Taking money from suburban municipalities looking to avoid building their fair share of affordable housing has provided needed redevelopment funds for urban communities. But it has come at a terrible price.

Rather than helping urban towns prosper, the concentration of affordable housing has made it difficult for the municipalities to attract a diverse income group needed to lift their economies. No community can thrive when most of its residents use more services — such as schools, sewer and garbage collection — than they can afford to support through taxes. That’s why it is preferable to scatter affordable housing for low- to moderate-income residents throughout the state, as the Supreme Court has ordered, to create more vibrant, economically diverse neighborhoods across New Jersey.

We urge lawmakers to support the efforts of Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, to end regional contribution agreements that allow wealthy suburban communities to shift some of their obligation to build affordable housing to urban municipalities. This practice has not adequately met the state’s housing needs, especially for low-income working people. Most jobs are in the suburbs, while the concentration of affordable housing is in cities such as Camden. The state’s poor transportation system, especially evident in South Jersey, makes it difficult for lower-income people — waitresses, store clerks, new teachers — to get to where the jobs are located.

Roberts’ proposal includes $15 million to offset some of the housing money RCAs provide to urban communities. Some urban mayors contend this isn’t enough to replace what they will lose if RCAs are eliminated.

More money should be invested in meeting the state’s woeful shortage of affordable housing, but not only in the cities. New Jersey needs to invest in a statewide strategy to site affordable housing where needed.

Distressed cities, such as Camden and Trenton, will continue to need extra help redeveloping into thriving communities. But concentrating affordable housing in these cities does not help them.