It’s Time to End NJ’s Long Wait for Affordable Housing

17% of NJ families headed by a person with disabilities live in poverty needing affordable housing

On November 4, 2016, the Courier Post ran a commentary piece, “It’s time for NJ to end the long wait for affordable housing.”

Its author, Joe Young was one of the founders of Monarch Housing Associates and served as the first chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

Young is executive director of Disability Rights New Jersey, which advocates for the human, civil and legal rights of people with disabilities.

Young tells the background story of New Jersey’s Mount Laurel decision. Mount Laurel prohibits exclusionary zoning and “it also imposes an affirmative obligation on each municipality to ensure zoning that allows the municipality to meet its fair share of regional affordable housing obligations.”

But this affordable housing obligation has not translated into the creation of the supply of affordable housing needed in New Jersey.

Young writes, “As one would expect, litigation estimating the need for affordable housing over the next 10 years involves a number of conflicting experts with conflicting assumptions and projections. Two of the issues in particular drew the attention of Disability Rights New Jersey and 13 other organizations concerned about ensuring community-based services for persons with disabilities.

Some of the municipalities suggested that the estimated total statewide housing obligation over the next decade should be reduced by up to 76,000 because some households were just too poor to afford affordable housing.”

This logic does not make sense to affordable housing and disability rights advocates because it would exclude all of the very poor New Jerseyans who rely solely on Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSDI) benefits.

Between 1999 and 2015 the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) did not implement an affordable housing plan and now very poor individuals including those with disabilities must wait for a court to decide this issue in November.

“The demand for affordable housing is beyond dispute. For example, the Department of Community Affairs recently reported that it received over 200,000 applications in a lottery for 10,000 subsidized housing vouchers.

Nearly 17 percent of New Jersey families headed by a person with disabilities live in poverty, and more than half of adults with disabilities are unable to work, or cannot find employment. Many people with disabilities have no choice but to rely on government assistance for their income and housing, including people with disabilities who previously had no choice but to live in institutions and other settings segregated from the community.”

“It’s time for NJ to end the long wait for affordable housing.”

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