Daily Archives: August 3, 2009

New Jersey Seeks To Close "Grocery Gap"

While new supermarkets continue to crowd New Jersey’s wealthier suburbs, urban areas remain chronically underserved. But thanks to a new state program that will offer low-interest loans to supermarket operators in distressed communities, urban residents may soon be able to buy fresh healthy food at a nearby market.

For years, many of the state’s poorest families had no choice but to shop at small neighborhood food stores that offered few choices for affordable nutritious food. This is often because big market chains are typically centered in higher income areas to take advantage of more profitable specialty items sold in the deli and organic sections.

The new program will be jointly funded with $7 million from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and $4 million from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. An additional $7 million in private funding will come from The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia based investment group which has already invested $116 million for 70 grocery stores across Pennsylvania. The New Jersey program will make the state only the second in the nation behind Pennsylvania to offer financing incentives specifically for supermarkets.

While no sites have yet been selected, Camden, Newark, Paterson, East Orange and New Brunswick are among the cities considered high-priority areas for new food markets to serve low-income families. Not only will new markets offer health benefits to city residents, but they will revitalize and strengthen communities by creating jobs that improve the health of the local economy. Furthermore, supermarkets serve as catalysts for additional economic investment, both residential and commercial.

Many low-income city residents must travel well outside their neighborhoods to purchase food at a large market. While small corner and convenience stores may serve as an alternative, they generally have lower quality and limited fresh food and charge substantially higher prices. This is especially tough on poor families, who must spend a greater proportion of their income on food.

According to a recent study, New Jersey has fewer supermarkets per resident than the national average, with urban areas particularly underserved. Encouraging supermarket operators to build in distressed communities is one way the state can help meet the needs of its poorest neighborhoods.

The Monday Minute is a news Letter from the New Jersey Policy Perspective

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Byrnes Sends Open Letter To Corzine Asking For 3 Year Moratorium on COAH

Middletown Democratic Committeeman and candidate for Monmouth County Freeholder, Sean F. Byrnes, sent this open letter to Governor Jon Corzine recently asking him to consider placing a 3 year moratorium on COAH regulations while our state “wrestles with the financial crises that has cripples our economy”.
I think Byrnes’s request is a sensible one when considering the state of the economy and falling real estate values. I hope that the Governor will consider it:

Dear Governor Corzine,

I write to you as an elected official in the Township of Middletown. In compliance with the most recent guidance from the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), we submitted our Affordable Housing Plan to COAH in December 2008. Although our Township Committee met its legal obligation, we did so with great reservation.

Middletown is an economically diverse Township whose history is free from any effort or intention to exclude or restrict the growth of a base of affordable housing. Nevertheless, because of the calculations that we must employ under COAH regulations, we must now expand our base of affordable housing. To meet the goals imposed by COAH, we must compel land owners and developers to add additional housing units that might not otherwise be constructed in the Township. We do so at a time when the marketability of these units, due to the current housing crisis, is open to question.

While I recognize that COAH was created in response to a legal mandate from the New Jersey Supreme Court, I write now to ask that you consider a three year moratorium on imposition of the most recent round of COAH regulations. As I know you are keenly aware, our country continues to wrestle with a financial crisis that has crippled our economy. I commend you for making hard choices this year to counter a $4.0 billion dollar loss of budgeted revenue, and I am asking for this additional step to assist local municipalities in their efforts to engage in thoughtful use of their land and to balance their budgets during these difficult times.

A moratorium would take the pressure off and allow all parties, including the Legislature, to assess the financial impact of this most recent round of legislation in the light of this recent financial downturn and to engage in this implementation process at a future time when this crisis will have abated and not loom so largely over our decision-making.

I am concerned that we are making very permanent decisions on the future of our housing stock and the use of our limited, undeveloped property at a time when the full impact of this financial crisis has yet to be fully measured and its long-term consequences assessed. I thank you for your consideration on this very important matter.

Very truly yours,
Committeeman Sean F. Byrnes
Township of Middletown

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Filed under COAH, Democratic Candidate, Economic Crisis, Gov. Jon Corzine, Middletown, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Freeholder Candidate, Moratorium, Sean F. Byrnes