NJ’s Affordable Housing Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

Affordable Housing Crisis: Who Decides What Gets Built and How are We Meeting Demand?

A three part NJTV series that is part of “Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America” focuses on issues tied to New Jersey’s Affordable Housing Crisis. The series is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society.

The August 28, 2017 episode “NJ’s affordable housing crisis: how did we get here?” gives the history of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) in New Jersey.

“New Jersey is famous for having one of the highest costs of living of any state in the country. And as the state becomes less and less affordable, towns are being tasked with building hundreds of thousands of units for low-income residents. Many towns are fighting their given quotas. Many already in court. But while few would argue the state doesn’t need more affordable housing the path to affordability is still unclear for those still Chasing the Dream.”

Forty years ago, New Jersey’s landmark Mount Laurel decision had the potential to create affordable housing throughout the state of New Jersey. “Out of it came the landmark Mount Laurel I decision. It declared New Jersey the first state in the nation barred from using land use zoning to exclude the poor.”

We all know how very difficult it is to afford housing in New Jersey. “In 1985, the Legislature enacted the Fair Housing Act, which created the Council on Affordable Housing, the agency tasked with overseeing it all.”

“What happened was, we had a succession of governors who did not want to see this progress, and consequently we had a log jam,” Arnold Cohen, senior policy coordinator with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey told NJTV news.

“The Council, or COAH for short, was dysfunctional to say the least. It was unable to give towns a clear number for their housing obligation, and local governments did little to solve the issue on their own.”

Fast forwarding to earlier this year, “In January 2017, the courts ruled that towns would also have to make up for that 15-year gap period. Adding on to the number of units required from each municipality.

“That number should be probably in the neighborhood of a little over 200,000 units statewide,” according to Peter O’Connor with the Fair Share Housing Center.

“It probably comes as no surprise that number is being disputed.”

In this news story, the Fair Share Housing Center’s Eric Dobson tells NJTV news “That towns need to find ways to make affordable housing work.”

“The argument that we should get rid of entitlement programs, well, here’s one way to get rid of it: integrate. Build more affordable housing so people can get better jobs and now they’re a full participant in the middle class,” he said.

“But regardless of partisan stripe, large or small town, all agree: action is needed. Statistics show for every New Jersey family receiving housing assistance, twice as many more are still in need.”

NJTV correspondent Briana Vannozzi reported these three stories.

NJ’s affordable housing crisis: how did we get here?

NJ’s affordable housing crisis: who decides what gets built?

NJ’s affordable housing crisis: how are towns meeting demand?

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