Category Archives: Affordable housing

As A Matter Of Fact…Financing the American Dream

August 16th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

By Sarah Stecker, Policy Analyst

Last month, in order to facilitate a deal that the state had already cut, Governor Christie signed a bill significantly expanding two programs that provide tax subsidies for developers, the Economic Redevelopment and Growth grant and the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit.

One section of the bill (S2972/A4161, P.L. 2011, c. 89) changes state law for the benefit of a single developer, the Canadian firm Triple Five Group. The deal made by the state, worth up to $350 million in tax breaks on the company’s more than $1billion investment, enticed Triple Five to resurrect the five-year-old, on-again-off-again eye sore previously known as Xanadu. The developer rebranded the half-finished mega mall as the American Dream at Meadowlands and said that in addition to “high-end” retail the mall would include an indoor ski slope, skating rink and a wave pool. The state estimated that upon completion the project would generate a whopping 35,000 permanent jobs.

The change in the law was required because Triple Five was not eligible for the grant the governor had promised many months earlier. Even though significant parts of the state – up to 80 percent of the municipalities – were eligible to host an ERG project, the area of the Meadowlands where the development was taking place was not covered by the original legislation.

The final grant amount to Triple Five depends on an analysis by the Economic Development Authority of the American Dream proposal. ERG grants can total up to 20 percent of a developer’s investment and can be paid out for up to 20 years as a portion of the tax revenues attributed to the project.

Another section of the bill amends state law requiring residential developers to produce affordable housing units in addition to market-rate units as a condition of receiving Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits. The change means developers will no longer have to put aside 20 percent of the residential housing they build for low and moderate income people. The law was meant to provide developers an incentive at the same time it would address the dire lack of decent, affordable housing in many areas of New Jersey. Municipalities now will make the decision about how much low-income housing – if any – will be included in a project.

The law also now allows developers to use any unused credits to reduce the developers’ taxes for up to 20 years from when the credit was given. At the same time, the new law increases the tax credit available to 35 percent, up from 20 percent, if a residential developer builds any housing in one of nine mass transit-accessible cities designated under the Hub law.

The change to the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit illustrates the good that public subsidies could do (incentivize transit-oriented development) versus the risk of corporations abusing these tax breaks.

For instance, the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit is available to corporations as well as residential developers. Campbell Soup, located ¾ of a mile from the Walter Rand Transit Center in Camden, received a $41.2 million credit in February of this year to renovate its headquarters, including more than $6 million to furnish the refurbished office space. In its application for the credit, Campbell’s officials said they would bring 95 workers to the city as a condition of the award. Four months after the grant was awarded and made public, Campbell’s announced it would lay off 130 of the 1,200 workers at its headquarters in Camden.

The layoffs are unlikely to jeopardize Campbell’s state subsidy because the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit is aimed primarily at supporting capital investment. To qualify, companies must invest more than $50 million in capital improvements and employ at least 250 full-time workers. Campbell’s is complying with the law, but the state’s taxpayers might rightly raise the question of why they are subsidizing the company’s newly renovated headquarters even as Campbell’s increases the state’s unemployment rate.

New Jersey is providing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies to corporations, developers and businesses in the hopes of stimulating the state economy and creating private sector jobs. But there is a policy trade-off and it is evident in this single piece of legislation. The Administration, abetted by leaders in the Legislature, is choosing corporations over individuals: high end retail over low-income housing; renovating corporate suites over rebuilding public schools. That is short-sighted. The long-term policies of a prosperous state must address the needs of its citizens, not just its corporations.

The state Economic Development Authority expects to approve rules implementing the new legislation at its September Board meeting.

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Filed under Affordable housing, As a Matter of Fact, developers, Economic Development Authority, ERG grants, Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Triple Five, Urban Transit Hub Tax Credits

N.J. Senate panel considers plan to transfer affordable housing control to towns

(Question – How would this new proposal be enforced to ensure that towns did not shirk their responsibilities to provide affordabled housing and if RCA’s are reinstated how do you ensure that wealthier towns make timely payments to the towns receiving the compensation?)

NJ.Com
By Lisa Fleisher/Statehouse Bureau

TRENTON — The state Senate began work today on a bill to transform the way affordable housing is handled in New Jersey, including transferring control to towns and abolishing a council that has been criticized as ineffective.

The proposal, still a very much a draft, would disband the controversial Council on Affordable Housing and turn its powers over to the State Planning Commission, ending 25 years of state power over municipal planning.

The goal is to create a standard level of affordable housing and allow municipalities to determine for themselves whether they meet that standard, said Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor.
“This bill is an attempt to simplify the process,” Lesniak said, noting he’s never met anyone who was happy with the council, known as COAH.
New Jersey’s current approach stems from the state Supreme Court’s 1975 and 1983 Mount Laurel decisions, which are named for the Burlington County township that was sued. The court said every resident is entitled to access to affordable housing.
A decade later, the state passed the Fair Housing Act and created COAH to implement policy. Critics of the policy say the models for determining the need for housing are outdated and saddle cities and towns with unnecessary extra housing and residents — and the accompanying cost of providing services to them.
Municipalities without enough housing would be able to offer builders incentives to make 20 percent of their developments affordable.
Under the legislation, builders still can legally challenge towns on whether they provide their required affordable housing. That provision allows developers the right to build units against a town’s wishes.
Dozens of people who came to testify at today’s hearing were cut off as time ran out, but Lesniak said they would have many more chances to speak. The committee will hold another hearing on the bill Monday but does not expect to vote.
Critics of the bill say it is a giveaway to developers, would allow municipalities to shirk their responsibilities and could endanger housing for the disabled. Lesniak said disabled residents would be protected in the legislation’s final version.
Low-income housing advocates say the bill would return New Jersey to pre-Mount Laurel practices and needs to be more targeted toward economic development goals.
“It’s shortsighted. It’s narrow-minded,” said Joseph Picard, spokesman for the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “We need to be thinking in terms of building housing near jobs and transportation.”
The bill also would temporarily bring back agreements between municipalities that allow towns, in essence, to sell off their affordable-housing requirements to other cities or towns. That practice was outlawed in 2008 with 5,000 units worth $116 million in the pipeline. The bill would allow those stalled deals to move forward if they are approved by the state by the end of 2011.
Though Lesniak said he has not spoken with Gov. Chris Christie, he thinks the proposal will have a “better opportunity” to pass than it would have under the Corzine administration. Christie has said he wanted to “gut” COAH but yesterday said he did not know enough about the bill to comment.

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Filed under Affordable housing, COAH, Fair Housing Act, New Jersey, NJ.com

Democrats on right side of affordable housing debate; Republicans only offer re-establishment of regional contribution agreements

The following commentary appeared in today’s Asbury Park Press and was written by Vincent Solomeno. Vincent is a life long bayshore area resident and a Monmouth County Democratic committeeman from Hazlet.

For those of you who do not know Vincent, he was named one of “50 Rising Stars in New Jersey Politics” by Politicker New Jersey, he has managed or worked on local, state, and national campaigns. He has worked for Congressman Frank Pallone.

In 2006, Vincent became a Truman Scholar and in 2007, he was selected as a J. William Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands where he earned a Master of Arts in European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. A Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG), he is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve and is training to become a Combat Engineer. 

So when Vincent has an opinion about something it’s worth listening to, he is not some loony liberal trying to push mandates down our throats. He is an extremely intelligent and distinguished member of the Monmouth County community who’s thoughts and ideas  should be considered:

Democrats must be able to transform the statewide mandate of the Council on Affordable Housing or else be ready for Republican criticism that may diminish Democratic support among suburban voters.

Ex-Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan recently traveled to Freehold to stump for votes in his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. He likened his campaign to the American Revolution and compared Gov. Jon Corzine and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature to the tyrants of Europe and Asia.

The 21st-century Gen. George Washington continued with a blistering attack on COAH and promised that, when the general election is through, the self-financed Corzine will be living in one of the program’s 40,000 units.

November’s election not only will determine who occupies the front office in the state Capitol. It will test New Jersey Republicans’ ability to make inroads into the Democrats’ legislative majority. Unless Democrats present a compelling narrative for affordable housing, COAH and its cumbersome regulations have the potential to unite the feuding factions of the GOP and erase Democratic gains in suburban battlegrounds.

From a policy perspective, the need for affordable housing remains as clear today as it was when the Supreme Court ordered state action on the issue in 1984. According to the U.S. Census, New Jerseyans pay 30 percent or more of their income for housing, the fourth highest percentage in the nation. However, members of both parties recognize that in its current form, COAH often results in continued overdevelopment and an increase in property taxes.

Democrats in the Legislature have indicated their willingness to take on the challenge. As chairman of the Economic Growth Committee, Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, introduced legislation (S2485) that directs the state Housing Commission to consider the impact of its assessments on local property taxes.

Lesniak also wants COAH to provide housing not only to low-income individuals, but to those in the middle class who do not qualify for the program but nonetheless struggle with New Jersey’s high cost of living. Called “work-force” housing, the change would allow individuals such as secretaries, firefighters and recent college graduates to qualify for assistance.

In his recent State of the State address, Corzine indicated his willingness to “allow for maximum flexibility and ample time for collaborative review” of affordable housing plans. The governor and Democrats will face the challenge of articulating the need for COAH regulations to a public leery of continued development.

Affordable housing may be an issue that Republicans can use to their advantage, but thus far they have offered no policy alternative other than S2292, a bill re-establishing the regional contribution agreements that circumvented the intent of affordable housing in the first place. Their advocacy of a return to the failed status quo does nothing to address the real problem.

New Jersey is a “blue” state and New Jersey Republicans are a party rife with ideological divisions. Criticism of COAH presents them with an issue they can rally around. However, they will need more than rhetoric and stale policy to convince voters they can solve the problem. Democrats have demonstrated a willingness to ease the burden on municipalities without abandoning a commitment to providing affordable housing. The remaining challenge for lawmakers is to deliver reform.


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Filed under Affordable housing, Asbury Park Press, COAH, Frank Pallone, Fulbright Scholar, Gov.Jon Corzine, Hazlet, Monmouth County Democrats, RCA's, State of the State Address, Steve Lonegan, Vincent Solomeno

>Democrats on right side of affordable housing debate; Republicans only offer re-establishment of regional contribution agreements

>

The following commentary appeared in today’s Asbury Park Press and was written by Vincent Solomeno. Vincent is a life long bayshore area resident and a Monmouth County Democratic committeeman from Hazlet.

For those of you who do not know Vincent, he was named one of “50 Rising Stars in New Jersey Politics” by Politicker New Jersey, he has managed or worked on local, state, and national campaigns. He has worked for Congressman Frank Pallone.

In 2006, Vincent became a Truman Scholar and in 2007, he was selected as a J. William Fulbright Scholar to the Netherlands where he earned a Master of Arts in European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. A Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG), he is a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve and is training to become a Combat Engineer. 

So when Vincent has an opinion about something it’s worth listening to, he is not some loony liberal trying to push mandates down our throats. He is an extremely intelligent and distinguished member of the Monmouth County community who’s thoughts and ideas  should be considered:

Democrats must be able to transform the statewide mandate of the Council on Affordable Housing or else be ready for Republican criticism that may diminish Democratic support among suburban voters.

Ex-Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan recently traveled to Freehold to stump for votes in his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. He likened his campaign to the American Revolution and compared Gov. Jon Corzine and the Democratic majorities in the Legislature to the tyrants of Europe and Asia.

The 21st-century Gen. George Washington continued with a blistering attack on COAH and promised that, when the general election is through, the self-financed Corzine will be living in one of the program’s 40,000 units.

November’s election not only will determine who occupies the front office in the state Capitol. It will test New Jersey Republicans’ ability to make inroads into the Democrats’ legislative majority. Unless Democrats present a compelling narrative for affordable housing, COAH and its cumbersome regulations have the potential to unite the feuding factions of the GOP and erase Democratic gains in suburban battlegrounds.

From a policy perspective, the need for affordable housing remains as clear today as it was when the Supreme Court ordered state action on the issue in 1984. According to the U.S. Census, New Jerseyans pay 30 percent or more of their income for housing, the fourth highest percentage in the nation. However, members of both parties recognize that in its current form, COAH often results in continued overdevelopment and an increase in property taxes.

Democrats in the Legislature have indicated their willingness to take on the challenge. As chairman of the Economic Growth Committee, Sen. Ray Lesniak, D-Union, introduced legislation (S2485) that directs the state Housing Commission to consider the impact of its assessments on local property taxes.

Lesniak also wants COAH to provide housing not only to low-income individuals, but to those in the middle class who do not qualify for the program but nonetheless struggle with New Jersey’s high cost of living. Called “work-force” housing, the change would allow individuals such as secretaries, firefighters and recent college graduates to qualify for assistance.

In his recent State of the State address, Corzine indicated his willingness to “allow for maximum flexibility and ample time for collaborative review” of affordable housing plans. The governor and Democrats will face the challenge of articulating the need for COAH regulations to a public leery of continued development.

Affordable housing may be an issue that Republicans can use to their advantage, but thus far they have offered no policy alternative other than S2292, a bill re-establishing the regional contribution agreements that circumvented the intent of affordable housing in the first place. Their advocacy of a return to the failed status quo does nothing to address the real problem.

New Jersey is a “blue” state and New Jersey Republicans are a party rife with ideological divisions. Criticism of COAH presents them with an issue they can rally around. However, they will need more than rhetoric and stale policy to convince voters they can solve the problem. Democrats have demonstrated a willingness to ease the burden on municipalities without abandoning a commitment to providing affordable housing. The remaining challenge for lawmakers is to deliver reform.


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Filed under Affordable housing, Asbury Park Press, COAH, Frank Pallone, Fulbright Scholar, Gov. Jon Corzine, Hazlet, Monmouth County Democrats, RCA's, State of the State Address, Steve Lonegan, Vincent Solomeno

MiddletownMike "Affordable housing is a necessity for working families"


Be sure to take a look at the Courier online today for my column on affordable housing.  I question who needs and qualifies for affordable housing, while giving a little bit of personal background information.

Click the headline to read the MiddletownMike column in the Courier.

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Filed under Affordable housing, Middletown, MiddletownMike, The Courier Online

MiddletownMike "Affordable housing is a necessity for working families"


Be sure to take a look at the Courier online today for my column on affordable housing.  I question who needs and qualifies for affordable housing, while giving a little bit of personal background information.

Click the headline to read the MiddletownMike column in the Courier.

Leave a comment

Filed under Affordable housing, Middletown, MiddletownMike, The Courier Online