At yesterday’s April 2, 2012, State Budget Hearing, it became clear that the State of New Jersey’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is looking to take back from the towns any money that remains in their Affordable Housing Trust Funds both this year and next year. As of March of this year, $174 million remains and the funds will be taken back by the State in July 2012. An additional $53 million, if it is left unspent, can be taken next year in July 2013.
DCA says that it expects to be able to reclaim a total of $200 million, assuming that some of the money will be spent by July 2013. The Trust Fund legislation states that any funding must be used to address affordable housing for low and moderate income families in the regions from which it is taken.
But DCA plans to use the money to supplant funding for existing housing programs that are currently paid for through the State’s General Fund – this means that State would simply be filling a budget hole and that no new affordable housing stock would be added. Governor Christie’s administration argues that putting the Trust Fund money into the General Fund will slow the growth of property taxes and help local municipalities lower their expenses.
Local municipalities, that know they need to create affordable housing and want to help the low and moderate income families in their communities, argue that guidance on how they were to spend their funds either didn’t exist or, where it did exist, were very unclear and they have asked for the deadline to be extended. Their affordable housing cases have been in out of the court system and the Governor’s attempt to reorganize COAH , the agency that serves as the affordable housing administrator was struck down.
Quoting from a March 2, 2012, NJ.Com article, “It’s really disconcerting,” said Bill Dressel, executive director of the state League of Municipalities. “There have been no housing regulations, no guidance at all has been forthcoming on how to use those trust fund dollars before July.”
Supporters of the Trust Fund in the state legislature are working to extend the 4 year deadline for spending the money – July 2012 was the original deadline from when former Governor Corzine signed the Trust Fund into legislation. And legislation proposed by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), that has the widespread support of municipalities and other concerned parties, would give New Jersey municipalities 2 years to use Municipal Trust Funds to convert foreclosed homes to affordable housing.
There is also concern that DCA will do the same thing with the $75 million from the mortgage foreclosure settlement.
Click here for NJ.Com’s coverage of yesterday’s hearing.
Advocates are making the case for affordable housing in New Jersey. Click here for some talking points about Why Affordable Housing is Good for the Economy from The United Way of Northern New Jersey.
Click here for Monarch’s recent posts about the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
DCA says that it expects to be able to reclaim a total of $200 million, assuming that some of the money will be spent by July 2013.