Wealthy towns must have affordable homes

We found this opinion in the Courier Post on Friday July 27, 2007.

Rich communities should not be allowed to outsource their obligation to provide affordable housing.

A plan to stop packing affordable housing into cities is running into opposition from New Jersey League of Municipalities members. Contending the organization is concerned about urban areas losing rehabilitation funds, the league is pushing hard to defeat a proposal by Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, to end regional contributions agreements. State officials opened this loophole to allow wealthy towns to get out of providing up to 50 percent of their fair share of affordable housing mandated under the Mount Laurel court decisions.

Instead of providing for affordable housing in their towns, wealthy municipalities pay other towns, usually poor areas such as Camden, to provide the affordable housing they don’t want in their communities. This obstinacy contributes to the severe shortage of affordable housing in New Jersey.

Some urban leaders, concerned about being cut off from RCA money used to rehabilitate old housing stock in their communities, also have expressed concern about Roberts’ bill. Yet, continuing to rely on RCAs is a no-win situation for these municipalities.

Concentrating affordable housing in one area can make it more difficult for a town, such as Camden, to develop the income diversity needed to support local services. RCAs also tend to exclude low- to moderate-income families from areas where good jobs and schools are available — which violates the intent of the Mount Laurel decisions.

It would be best to find other sources for urban housing rehabilitation. If the voters approve more open-space funding in November, state officials and Gov. Jon Corzine could dedicate more of this money for urban renewal, which decreases sprawl and protects undeveloped land. This and almost any other source other than RCAs would be a better option for urban areas.

RCAs don’t help urban areas; they only help exclusionary housing practices to continue. Roberts and other legislators are justified in stopping this end-run around the law.