“Last month, the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee held a nearly four-hour public hearing, where some charged that racism plays a role in some local opposition to building affordable housing in New Jersey communities.
But despite sparks flying over the racism accusations, the hearing ran smoothly, getting through the dozens who asked to testify shortly before the time the committee chairman had hoped to finish.”
The previous chair, Jerry Green was ill for a long time which led to the Committee being “relatively quiet.” “But housing remains a pressing issue, from municipal anger over settlements that have given some suburban communities affordable-housing quotas approaching 1,000 units to the dubious designation of New Jersey as the state with the highest rate of foreclosures.
Benjie Wimberly is calling for the start of a conversation about affordable housing and homelessness plans to continue to hold hearings and also committee meetings.
In an interview with NJ Spotlight’s Colleen O’Dea, Wimberly answered questions including about his response to people complaining that “affordable housing is going to change the character of our community.”
Wimberly responded “We have been fighting for fair funding for schools. No kids really should be deprived of a quality education just because of their ZIP code. New Jersey is a very diverse state, but at the same time, I think we’re among the most segregated. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat, whatever, you shouldn’t want to be part of that narrative right now.”
Benjie Wimberly said that he has put a legislative solution for affordable housing at the top of his list.
On advocates for the return of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), Wimberly said “But we also have to keep as much green space and open space for kids in cities like Paterson. I’m glad to see more affordable housing units go up, but we also need more playgrounds. When developers come in with their plans, we should say, “You’re also going to put a swimming pool inside. There’s got to be a playground for these kids to get out and catch some fresh air, you know? I grew up in public housing and within that housing complex there were baseball fields and a portable swimming pool in the summertime.”
And Benjie Wimberly made the case for the importance of ending homelessness.
“When you see the homeless now, I think if we housed them, we would save money on healthcare, and they would become employable. If you don’t have an address, you can’t get a job. If you’re living outside, how healthy are you? Those kids, what chance do they have to be successful academically? You’re probably getting three, four hours of sleep at night, you don’t feel safe. The homeless are another housing issue we need to look at.”