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Tell Your Legislators to Reject the Conditional Veto

Posted by Damika Webb on January 28th 2011

On January 24, Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the housing legislation that was passed by the Legislature earlier in the month. The legislation had support from many housing and special needs groups and the business community. NAIOP New Jersey Chapter, New Jersey Business & Industry Association, International Council of Shopping Centers, New Jersey Builders Association and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce all urged the Governor to sign the legislation as “workable housing policy”. While we believed that the municipal obligations in S1/A3447 were too low, we agreed that the bill does provide a workable and predictable framework to get homes built.

Gov. Christie’s conditional veto would return the bill to the “old S1” considered by the Legislature last spring, a bill deemed unconstitutional by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services. In this e-mail, we recap the various reasons why the old bill gathered so much opposition from the business, civil rights, environmental, housing, mental health, religious and smart growth communities.

We agree with Housing and Local Government Committee Chair Jerry Green, who has demonstrated strong leadership and conducted an admirable public process to involve all stakeholders throughout this debate.

“The governor has now made it clear that he supports unconstitutional legislation that imposes higher fees on New Jersey businesses,” Green said in a statement released Monday. “The governor, sadly, wants higher business taxes and a court fight. That accomplishes nothing.”

As Chairman Green says, the old S1 would accomplish little more than a court fight — it certainly would not get housing built. It would allow municipalities to determine their own housing obligations, allow any housing obligation to be met with a $10,000 payment instead of actually building homes, and would reimpose growth share, a failed system that has been rejected twice by the courts as unconstitutional.

This egregious housing bill was opposed by the following groups: NJ State Conference of the NAACP, New Jersey’s Catholic Bishops & NJ Catholic Conference, NJ Builders Association, NJ Mental Health Association, 80 Special Needs Providers, including the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Covenant House, and Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity (eight NJ chapters), The Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, NJ Future, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Sierra Club of NJ, Coalition on Affordable Housing and the Environment and Fair Share Housing Center, among others.

The “old S1” proposed by the conditional veto is bad for New Jersey because:

It discourages economic development throughout the state – business groups are opposed due to the approval by the bill of exclusionary zoning practices that restrict growth even in appropriate places near jobs and transit.

It lets all obligations be met through a $10,000 payment instead of actually building homes.

Whether a town is “inclusionary” is not determined based on who lives there, instead based mainly on % of townhouses and condos (even if they are expensive). Towns like Pennsauken and Maplewood are “exclusionary” while Princeton and Summit are “inclusionary.”

The bill does not include funding for urban areas or any very-low-income housing requirements for families earning under $25,000.

All prior obligations forgiven – towns that did a good job start at the same place as towns that did nothing

Far fewer homes would have been built under S-1 than under COAH (even though everyone agrees COAH has not done enough). If S-1 has been in place since 1986, it would have resulted in $767 million of public and private investment in affordable housing, all through minor rehabilitation. COAH since 1986 has produced over $6 billion of public and private investment and over 50,000 new homes, in addition to over 15,000 homes rehabilitated.

Far fewer homes would be built under S-1 in the future than under current law. If S-1 were in place between now and 2018, it would require no new construction and at most 18,000 homes receiving minor rehabilitation; municipalities currently have plans for over 40,000 new homes affordable to low- and moderate income people plus a requirement for minor rehabilitation of 51,000 homes by 2018.

The bill is an environmental disaster – it encourages development in New Jersey’s most environmentally sensitive and rural areas while discouraging development near transit and jobs.

Even the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services stated that S-1 is unconstitutional because there is no way to actually meet the need for low- and moderate-income homes in the bill and because any municipality can simply choose to exclude low- and moderate-income people entirely.

It is important that you tell your legislators to REJECT this flawed and widely opposed legislation.

Find and contact your representatives here.