A major nonprofit housing advocate criticized Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday for what the organization sees as an attempt to back off his campaign promise to provide 100,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years.
The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, which represent 250 affordable housing advocacy groups, is angry about Corzine’s comments in an article in the Sunday Star-Ledger, in which he said a potential $300 million price tag to provide the housing during tough fiscal times has caused his administration to step back and re-examine potential proposals.
“We are extremely disappointed that you appear to be formally moving away from that commitment, which you made as a candidate in 2005 and have since reiterated numerous times publicly and to our members,” Diane Sterner, the housing network’s director, wrote in a letter to the governor. “We hope that you will reconsider your decision to abandon your promise.”
Sterner vehemently disagreed the price tag is the problem.
“(The) $30 million per year for 10 years is less than 0.1 percent of the state’s annual budget — which is just under $33.5 billion,” she said. “We believe — and had hoped you did too — that this relatively small amount of money is urgently needed to solve what the Brookings (Institution) has called the biggest threat to our state’s economic vitality.”
Brendan Gilfillan, a spokesman for the governor, said Corzine remains committed to providing the 100,000 units.
“The issue under discussion now is how to achieve that goal in a sustainable and financially viable way, given the state’s fiscal crunch,” Gilfillan said. “We will continue working with all advocates and stakeholders, including HCDN (the housing network), to answer that question.”
Gilfillan also referred critics to a comment Corzine made in the Sunday Star-Ledger article.
“These things cost money, so we have to rework some of the suggestions,” the governor said. “I think we can accomplish this. We’re dedicated to making sure it happens. We’ll have to find the right kind of incentives and resources.”
In 1987, the state government determined at least 120,000 new or refurbished affordable houses and apartments would be needed by 2014. As of last year, 37,986 units of affordable housing had been provided. A total of 660,248 market-rate houses and apartments have been built since 1983.
Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) said Friday he expects to unveil a package of affordable housing bills by the end of the year.
Joseph Picard, a housing network spokesman, said housing advocates intend to continue to pressure Corzine to develop an affordable housing plan.
“We can’t let him walk away from his promise,” Picard said. “He got a lot of support from housing advocates and it seems like he is running the flag up the pole to see if he can back off on his promise. We are telling network members to let the governor know they are very displeased.”