October 11, 2017
For immediate release
Crisis in Availability and Affordability Limits Options, Stifles Economy
TRENTON (Oct. 11, 2017) — More people would have an, affordable, convenient, safe place to call home if New Jersey reverses its damaging retreat from sound land-use planning and investment in affordable homes, a new report from The Fund for New Jersey says.
“The Garden State is in a bind,” the report says. “New Jersey has too few homes that residents can afford, legacy consequences from sprawl, aging infrastructure, and a geography that makes its land particularly vulnerable to the encroachment of rising seas. At the same time, the state’s resources and its political will to address these challenges have diminished.”
New Jersey used to be a national leader in effective land-use planning and creation of affordable homes. Today, housing costs are among the highest in the nation, high rates of evictions threaten family stability, and residential foreclosures outpace the rest of the country. Development over the last several decades has brought the state close to build-out and the resulting sprawl has separated economic opportunities and affordable homes. More recently, Superstorm Sandy has demonstrated New Jersey’s vulnerability to extreme weather associated with climate change, weather that has damaged homes and communities and displaced vulnerable residents.
At the same time, demand for homes in many of New Jersey’s urban centers and walkable suburban downtowns is increasing as recent trends show that this is where aging baby boomers, millennials, and immigrants are choosing to live. But New Jersey is not investing or maximizing opportunities for inclusive, equitable development in these strategic locations.
The report, “Communities of Opportunity: New Jerseyans Need More Affordable, Convenient, and Safe Places to Call Home,” is the fifth in the Crossroads NJ series aimed at informing public debate in this pivotal election year. It was produced by The Fund for New Jersey, which since 1970 has focused its philanthropy on improving the quality of life in the Garden State by supporting good policy decision-making. The other Crossroads NJ reports cover the state’s fiscal crisis, jobs and the economy, criminal justice, education, and transportation.
The full text of the reports, as they are released, and other information about Crossroads NJ is available at http://www.fundfornj.org/crossroadsnj.
Key recommendations include:
EXPAND THE SUPPLY OF AFFORDABLE HOMES FOR HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS
- Adopt the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s “Build a thriving New Jersey” plan to strategically invest resources to create hundreds of thousands of new and rehabilitated affordable homes close to good schools and job opportunities.
- Encourage mixed-use and transit-oriented development where infrastructure exists or could be enhanced, and grant state and regional agencies the authority to approve such projects.
FIGHT SEGREGATION AND BETTER MEET HOUSING NEEDS
- Complete the legal process the state Supreme Court established through the Mount Laurel decisions to address municipal “fair share” obligations and give towns working to meet those obligations tools to expedite construction.Re-establish the State Office of the Public Advocate and make championing fair housing one of its key mandates.
TAKE COMPREHENSIVE MEASURES TO REDUCE EVICTIONS AND FORECLOSURES
- Fully fund legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction.
- Require lenders to consider loan modifications for struggling homeowners.
- Create a state program to buy vacant foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders for occupancy as affordable homes.
REVIVE A MORIBUND PLANNING PROCESS THAT THREATENS THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORTATION, AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION
- Update the State Plan, regional plans, and local plans through an inclusive process.
- Restore the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission as an independent agency, and bring back tax-base-sharing among municipalities in the covered region.
- Create a regional planning body to protect people, foster resilient communities, and protect ecological resources along the coast.
- Undertake a coastal regional planning process, with an emphasis on climate resiliency, open-space acquisition, and planned retreat from vulnerable locations, as well as providing a variety and choice of housing.
The Crossroads NJ series presents evidence-based policy recommendations, generated and vetted by experts. The Fund’s aim is to present a set of balanced and constructive recommendations that build a foundation for discussion, that The Fund for New Jersey Trustees feel are sound and workable.
Consistent with its status as a philanthropic foundation, The Fund for New Jersey does not support candidates or political parties.