Pervasive Fear of Affordable Housing in NJ

Opposition to Building Requirements
Takes Anti-Semitic Tone

Pervasive Fear of Affordable Housing in NJIn March 2015, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts would be the new affordable housing regulators in New Jersey.

A December 22, 2015 Atlantic Monthly article reports that this ruling,

“Was a blow for the governor, and a win for affordable housing activists, who had long said that COAH wasn’t working. In essence, the change meant that each town needed to submit to the courts a plan for affordable housing, committing to building a certain number of units.”

Affordable housing has historically faced opposition which is now rearing its ugly head in Howell, New Jersey. The town is described as a “middle-class Republican stronghold in central new Jersey.” Working to meet its affordable housing requirements, the town planned to rezone woodlands to build 72 affordable housing units.

Residents opposing creating the new affordable housing voiced their concerns on a Howell Happenings Facebook page, “Fearing that a community of Hasidic Jews living in nearby Lakewood, New Jersey, would ‘take over’ Howell, that the new affordable housing units would drag down property values and deplete the town’s coffers.” Others went as far to start a movement to keep “Howell Strong.”

Other towns across the state are also resisting their responsibilities to build affordable housing “Many towns have simply done nothing. Part of it has to do with fear: fear of people who are different from them, fear of people of color moving into their communities, fear of development.”

Said Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for Fair Share Housing.

Whether negative comments are based on prejudice or fear of losing open space, affordable housing typically has no negative impact on communities that build it.

“… After construction, the developments usually don’t create problems. In one town where Conifer had to fight to build an affordable development, Lewis recently received a call from the school district, which was surprised that enrollment had not increased after the development was completed—much of the rhetoric about the development beforehand had been about how it would overload schools.”

The Howell Town Council saw the affordable housing proposal as a positive potential development since it would both meet the “substantial need” for affordable housing and also use available Hurricane Sandy recovery funds. And to their credit, town officials are moving forward with developing the affordable housing with among their goals, keeping Howell affordable for working class households.

“That’s what makes Howell’s dedication to build the housing stand out. Neighboring towns have backed down in recent months after town opposition grew. Not Howell.

‘The town stood firm, and said, this is the right thing to do, and this is the best decision for the municipality of Howell in the long run. They took a tremendous amount of heat for it,’ Del Duca said. ‘They deserve a lot of credit.’”

Click here for the the full Atlantic Monthly article.