[Hpn] N.J. pushes affordable housing

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Fri, 11 Aug 2006 12:34:24 -0400


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cmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY5NzM4NzImeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

N.J. pushes affordable housing=20
      =20


      Friday, August 11, 2006=20


      By ELISE YOUNG
      STAFF WRITER=20

     =20

New Jersey's cities and suburbs should add 100,000 affordable houses and =
apartments over the next decade, according to a report released by the =
state Department of Community Affairs on Thursday.

The units -- a mix of rentals and privately owned units -- would house =
the homeless, people with moderate and low incomes, seniors and the =
mentally and physically disabled, living "in communities that are =
attractive, safe, economically mixed and easily accessible to employment =
and services," the report says.

The 173-page "State of New Jersey Housing and Policy Report" is not a =
firm blueprint, but a look at who has been left out of the country's =
most expensive housing market, and an inventory of the state and federal =
initiatives available to them.

In some ways, those initiatives -- including voucher programs, tax =
breaks for builders and low-cost mortgages -- have been good to that =
population. In the past four years, New Jersey has exceeded a goal to =
build 20,000 units, the report noted. At the same time, however, the =
price of labor, building materials and real estate has risen.

"The costs to create housing ... are increasing faster than anticipated, =
while federal funding is decreasing," the report says.

A second study, expected later this year, will show where the housing =
could be constructed and at what cost.

"The report that we released [Thursday] is the first time ever that we =
have taken a comprehensive look at all the various state housing =
programs," said Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin. "The =
problem was sometimes these agencies didn't talk to each other. This =
plan puts all the different programs and policies in the framework of =
what we should do for a comprehensive state policy."

The report notes the potential for a long-term benefit not only for =
low-income populations, but also for the communities where they live. =
The state has a copious supply of downtowns with tattered housing but =
ready access to jobs, transportation, shopping, health care and other =
services. Renovated, those residential units could inject new life into =
whole cities.

The report does not name municipalities where people of little means =
might settle. But it makes clear that urban areas are not the only =
target: The state strives, it says, to encourage "economically mixed =
communities."

"There are many innovative design examples of mixed-income housing =
developments that seamlessly eliminate the distinctions between =
affordable and market rate units," the report says, "while =
simultaneously positively impacting property values for all residents."

Included in that mix would be 10,713 homeless people who would be =
channeled into programs called Housing First and Supportive Housing, for =
immediate and long-term shelter.

"Planning and housing efforts need to include a diverse group of public =
and private entities to further understand the causes of homelessness =
and to work toward its prevention," the report states. "Housing First =
and Supportive Housing are two proven approaches ... that are strongly =
recommended for further development in New Jersey."

The report came as legislators met in the State House this week to =
address reform for a property-tax system that is the costliest in the =
country.

The report comes as the New Jersey housing market is in flux, and as =
legislators continue to meet in the State House today to address reform =
for a property-tax system that is the costliest in the country.

In June, the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service reported the median =
sale price in Bergen County was $488,000 in the quarter ended June 30, =
and the median price in Passaic County was $390,000. Each price was a 5 =
percent increase compared with the same period a year earlier.

>From 2004 to 2005, however, prices had risen 15 percent in Bergen County =
and 19 percent in Passaic County.

Moreover, New Jersey's supply of unsold homes was up 71 percent in =
April, compared with a year earlier, according to figures from Jeffrey =
G. Otteau, an East Brunswick appraiser. And the most expensive homes -- =
$1 million and up -- were likely to languish the longest.

But there is no legislative solution for high real-estate prices.

More than 30 years ago, New Jersey courts began to issue their so-called =
Mount Laurel rulings, ordering the state to alter its land-use laws to =
allow zoning for low-cost housing. In April, however, The Record found =
that New Jersey was falling short of its affordable-housing goals.

Only 59,000 of 76,000 such units have been built, the report found. =
Nearly half the state's 566 municipalities have no plan to provide =
below-market rate units. And a complicated system of trades among towns =
means that ultimately, municipalities can bypass their obligation =
completely.

In the study released Thursday, the DCA gave a broad timeline of 10 =
years to complete renovation and construction. Rather than do any =
building itself, Community Affairs would award grants and incentives to =
non-profit groups and private developers.

"The report reflects a partnership between the state, the housing =
advocacy community, local governments and affordable housing developers, =
serving as a catalyst for input, discussion and development of =
strategies to address the state's affordable housing crisis," said Bass =
Levin.

It remains to be determined when construction could begin.

"It's not like somebody's going to build 100,000 units in a week," said =
Staci Berger, acting associate director of the Housing and Community =
Development Network of New Jersey. "It's going to be a process."

Paul Chrystie, director of the Coalition for Affordable Housing and the =
Environment, said the report was a good start. But the solution isn't as =
simple as constructing places for people to live.

"We've projected the need over the next 10 years to be 650,000 units," =
he said. "This problem didn't crop up in the past two years. It's been =
building and building and building. To think we're going to solve a =
30-year problem in 10 years, I think, is unrealistic."

Bill Dressel, executive director of the state League of Municipalities, =
said the notion was "basically positive." But he said the crisis goes =
far beyond the price of real estate.

"Until this state can slay the property-tax dragon, New Jersey is not =
going to be an affordable place for business and for people at all =
levels of income -- most particularly for those at the low end," he =
said.

E-mail: younge@northjersey.com



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<DIV><SPAN class=3Dstorytitle></SPAN>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><SPAN class=3Dstorytitle>N.J. pushes affordable housing </SPAN><!-- =
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      <DIV><BR><SPAN class=3Ddate>Friday, August 11, 2006</SPAN> </DIV>
      <DIV><SPAN class=3Dbyline><BR><BR>By ELISE YOUNG<BR>STAFF WRITER=20
      </SPAN><BR><BR></DIV></TD>
    <TD=20
  align=3Dright><!-- start page_related --><!-- end page_related =
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<P>New Jersey's cities and suburbs should add 100,000 affordable houses =
and=20
apartments over the next decade, according to a report released by the =
state=20
Department of Community Affairs on Thursday.</P>
<P>The units -- a mix of rentals and privately owned units -- would =
house the=20
homeless, people with moderate and low incomes, seniors and the mentally =
and=20
physically disabled, living "in communities that are attractive, safe,=20
economically mixed and easily accessible to employment and services," =
the report=20
says.</P>
<P>The 173-page "State of New Jersey Housing and Policy Report" is not a =
firm=20
blueprint, but a look at who has been left out of the country's most =
expensive=20
housing market, and an inventory of the state and federal initiatives =
available=20
to them.</P>
<P>In some ways, those initiatives -- including voucher programs, tax =
breaks for=20
builders and low-cost mortgages -- have been good to that population. In =
the=20
past four years, New Jersey has exceeded a goal to build 20,000 units, =
the=20
report noted. At the same time, however, the price of labor, building =
materials=20
and real estate has risen.</P>
<P>"The costs to create housing ... are increasing faster than =
anticipated,=20
while federal funding is decreasing," the report says.</P>
<P>A second study, expected later this year, will show where the housing =
could=20
be constructed and at what cost.</P>
<P>"The report that we released [Thursday] is the first time ever that =
we have=20
taken a comprehensive look at all the various state housing programs," =
said=20
Community Affairs Commissioner Susan Bass Levin. "The problem was =
sometimes=20
these agencies didn't talk to each other. This plan puts all the =
different=20
programs and policies in the framework of what we should do for a =
comprehensive=20
state policy."</P>
<P>The report notes the potential for a long-term benefit not only for=20
low-income populations, but also for the communities where they live. =
The state=20
has a copious supply of downtowns with tattered housing but ready access =
to=20
jobs, transportation, shopping, health care and other services. =
Renovated, those=20
residential units could inject new life into whole cities.</P>
<P>The report does not name municipalities where people of little means =
might=20
settle. But it makes clear that urban areas are not the only target: The =
state=20
strives, it says, to encourage "economically mixed communities."</P>
<P>"There are many innovative design examples of mixed-income housing=20
developments that seamlessly eliminate the distinctions between =
affordable and=20
market rate units," the report says, "while simultaneously positively =
impacting=20
property values for all residents."</P>
<P>Included in that mix would be 10,713 homeless people who would be =
channeled=20
into programs called Housing First and Supportive Housing, for immediate =
and=20
long-term shelter.</P>
<P>"Planning and housing efforts need to include a diverse group of =
public and=20
private entities to further understand the causes of homelessness and to =
work=20
toward its prevention," the report states. "Housing First and Supportive =
Housing=20
are two proven approaches ... that are strongly recommended for further=20
development in New Jersey."</P>
<P>The report came as legislators met in the State House this week to =
address=20
reform for a property-tax system that is the costliest in the =
country.</P>
<P>The report comes as the New Jersey housing market is in flux, and as=20
legislators continue to meet in the State House today to address reform =
for a=20
property-tax system that is the costliest in the country.</P>
<P>In June, the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service reported the median =
sale=20
price in Bergen County was $488,000 in the quarter ended June 30, and =
the median=20
price in Passaic County was $390,000. Each price was a 5 percent =
increase=20
compared with the same period a year earlier.</P>
<P>From 2004 to 2005, however, prices had risen 15 percent in Bergen =
County and=20
19 percent in Passaic County.</P>
<P>Moreover, New Jersey's supply of unsold homes was up 71 percent in =
April,=20
compared with a year earlier, according to figures from Jeffrey G. =
Otteau, an=20
East Brunswick appraiser. And the most expensive homes -- $1 million and =
up --=20
were likely to languish the longest.</P>
<P>But there is no legislative solution for high real-estate prices.</P>
<P>More than 30 years ago, New Jersey courts began to issue their =
so-called=20
Mount Laurel rulings, ordering the state to alter its land-use laws to =
allow=20
zoning for low-cost housing. In April, however, The Record found that =
New Jersey=20
was falling short of its affordable-housing goals.</P>
<P>Only 59,000 of 76,000 such units have been built, the report found. =
Nearly=20
half the state's 566 municipalities have no plan to provide below-market =
rate=20
units. And a complicated system of trades among towns means that =
ultimately,=20
municipalities can bypass their obligation completely.</P>
<P>In the study released Thursday, the DCA gave a broad timeline of 10 =
years to=20
complete renovation and construction. Rather than do any building =
itself,=20
Community Affairs would award grants and incentives to non-profit groups =
and=20
private developers.</P>
<P>"The report reflects a partnership between the state, the housing =
advocacy=20
community, local governments and affordable housing developers, serving =
as a=20
catalyst for input, discussion and development of strategies to address =
the=20
state's affordable housing crisis," said Bass Levin.</P>
<P>It remains to be determined when construction could begin.</P>
<P>"It's not like somebody's going to build 100,000 units in a week," =
said Staci=20
Berger, acting associate director of the Housing and Community =
Development=20
Network of New Jersey. "It's going to be a process."</P>
<P>Paul Chrystie, director of the Coalition for Affordable Housing and =
the=20
Environment, said the report was a good start. But the solution isn't as =
simple=20
as constructing places for people to live.</P>
<P>"We've projected the need over the next 10 years to be 650,000 =
units," he=20
said. "This problem didn't crop up in the past two years. It's been =
building and=20
building and building. To think we're going to solve a 30-year problem =
in 10=20
years, I think, is unrealistic."</P>
<P>Bill Dressel, executive director of the state League of =
Municipalities, said=20
the notion was "basically positive." But he said the crisis goes far =
beyond the=20
price of real estate.</P>
<P>"Until this state can slay the property-tax dragon, New Jersey is not =
going=20
to be an affordable place for business and for people at all levels of =
income --=20
most particularly for those at the low end," he said.</P>
<P>E-mail: <A=20
href=3D"mailto:younge@northjersey.com">younge@northjersey.com</A></P></BO=
DY></HTML>

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