Housing market discriminatory

This editorial in last week’s Asbury Park Press supports the need to make major changes including an end to exclusionary zoning. It does not deal with rising rents, but it’s strong case for the slim to none chances of buying a house “If you aren’t rich or over 55” sums up the crisis. Anyone want place a wager when the median price of new homes exceeds $1 million?

Housing market discriminatory
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 06/12/07

If you aren’t rich or over 55, or both, your chances of buying a new home in Monmouth County are slim to none.

According to a county Planning Board survey released last week, the median price of a new home in Monmouth County reached a staggering $810,000 in 2006. And nearly half of the new homes offered for sale were available only to buyers 55 and older.

Where does that leave middle-income families or young people just starting out? Pretty much out in the cold. They can forget about buying a new home. They’re left to wait for empty nesters to move out of their older homes, or to relocate to a less expensive county, likely in a less expensive state.

Market forces are only partly to blame. New Jersey’s legislators have failed to develop a housing policy that addresses one of the root problems — exclusionary zoning that allows towns to effectively slam the door shut on low- and middle-income residents. The state should take control of zoning, eliminate regional contribution agreements, which allow wealthy towns to sell their affordable housing obligations to other towns, and require that developers of large-scale housing projects provide a mix of housing types as a condition of approval.

Manalapan Mayor Andrew Lucas said restricting housing to buyers age 55 and up can help balance out the tax rolls. That balancing act has now become grossly out of balance. To combat rising school enrollment — and property tax increases that often accompany it — most towns have used age-restricted housing and large-lot zoning as weapons. It’s understandable. But catering only to empty nesters and the wealthy is unacceptable public policy.

The county housing report found that the typical new single-family home was 3,875 square feet, built on three-quarter-acre lots. Given the state’s rapidly shrinking undeveloped land, and the pressing need for more affordable housing, that’s disgraceful.

“We would like to find out more about the market,” Planning Board Director Robert Clark said. “We’re very curious — but we don’t know — how many Monmouth County residents are buying age-restricted homes. I would hope that we’re serving our own.”

It doesn’t take another survey to figure out that most residents, from Monmouth County and elsewhere, are not being properly served. Gov. Corzine and the Legislature must act decisively to combat exclusionary zoning.