Affordable housing only a matter of leadership

We are pleased to be able publish along with the mainstream media, an important op-ed by the two co-chairs as well as the Executive Director of Homes for New Jersey on the affordable housing crisis in our state. It is a thoughtful article that we strongly encourage you to read and share.

Affordable housing only a matter of leadership

By Bruce Davidson, Timothy Touhey and Alison Badgett

In a recent public comment, Gov. Jon S. Corzine indicated that he believes New Jersey does not have adequate funding resources to achieve his campaign pledge of preserving or producing 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years. This should be a matter of great concern to the voters, legislators, and public officials of New Jersey. It is very troubling to us and the membership organizations of Homes for New Jersey.

New Jersey is experiencing a housing affordability crisis — our most vulnerable populations face enormous barriers to adequate housing; the workforce that fuels our economy increasingly cannot afford to live here; while those who develop housing are significantly hindered in production by unnecessary barriers and structural inefficiencies.

After an extensive study, the Brookings Institution called New Jersey’s lack of affordable housing the greatest threat to our state’s future, concluding that New Jersey faces the most difficult housing challenge of any state in the nation. The census report released last week found New Jersey’s median housing costs the second highest in the nation.

Homes for New Jersey was founded two years ago as a coalition of 270 prominent New Jersey builders, bankers, religious organizations, real estate companies, advocacy groups, and service providers, committed to applying their expertise and energy towards solving New Jersey’s housing crisis. We believe the governor should not immediately back away from his admirable goals on affordable housing based on one estimate of potential cost. For 20 months, the administration, with the help of community and business leaders, has been exploring a variety of options to alleviate New Jersey’s housing crisis. Many of these options have little or no budgetary impact.

We at Homes for New Jersey believe that the governor needs to develop a comprehensive housing plan that includes first and foremost, significant structural and regulatory reform. Homes for New Jersey released a detailed plan with practical action steps to ensure New Jersey develops the range of housing we need to remain a thriving state.

Most of our recommendations could be implemented immediately. They would not require significant appropriations, but rather leadership to initiate complex policy changes and promote well planned, strategic housing development.

Corzine has repeatedly said, “Hold me accountable.” During his campaign and since his election, the governor has repeatedly renewed his pledge to preserve or develop 100,000 affordable homes within 10 years. We expect him to honor his commitment to housing the homeless, supporting a thriving workforce, and promoting an efficient public sector system that integrates with and leverages private sector resources.

Now 20 months into his first term, it is time to insist not on commitment, but action.

Homes for New Jersey, and the breadth of affordable housing expertise, knowledge, and perspectives we represent, stands ready as always to work with the governor to help him fulfill his ambitious and important pledge to New Jersey.

Bruce Davidson and Timothy Touhey are co-chairs of Homes for New Jersey. Alison Badgett is the group’s executive director.