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Assembly Housing Committee Advances Legislation Addressing Critical Affordable Housing Needs in NJ

TRENTON (January 29, 2024) – The Assembly Housing Committee today advanced eight bills to support affordable housing in New Jersey, including A4, which would create a new and streamlined process for determining affordable housing obligations under the Mount Laurel doctrine.

Under A4, the Department of Community Affairs would calculate municipal housing obligations under a newly established statutory formula. The legislation would give municipalities greater flexibility and input in determining how to meet their housing obligations, reduce costly delays and minimize litigation, and offer municipalities protection from builder’s remedy lawsuits. Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez, Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, and Assemblyman Benjie E. Wimberly sponsored the bill.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure everyone can find affordable housing in our state,” said Speaker Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This bill, which addresses one of the biggest affordability problems in our state, will help our residents stay and thrive in the Garden State.”

“This bill would set clear statutory guidance, creating a pathway for municipalities to meet their obligation and for residents to finally have access to affordable housing opportunities,” said Assemblywoman Lopez (D-Middlesex). “We are fortunate to live in a state where so many parties are interested in our shared fair housing goals, and this bill aims to strike a balance between the needs of advocates and stakeholders and our municipal partners who will ultimately implement the housing we need.”

Advocates throughout New Jersey applauded the advancement of this bill out of committee today, pointing to the positive impact the legislation would have on affordable housing in the Garden State:

“Streamlining the process for building affordable housing in New Jersey opens the door for thousands of low-income individuals and families to have a place to call home,” said Connie Mercer, Chief Executive Officer for the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness. “Having access to healthy, safe and affordable housing is a basic human right that needs to be extended to all New Jerseyans, regardless of socio-economic status and I am excited to see this bill advance out of committee.”

“We have the opportunity to make real progress for families in need of a fresh start in their own homes,” said Cierra Hart, Director of Housing and Economic Justice for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “Survivors of domestic violence need affordable housing to heal and renew their lives. This legislation will build on the work we’ve done and offer those in emergency and transitional housing the chance to move on.”

“We know of far too many cases where domestic violence victims in abusive relationships stay because they couldn’t afford to move out of the residence they share with their abusers,” said Calandria Ortiz-Resende, Policy Manager at New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence. “By addressing the affordable housing shortage that exists in our state, this bill would empower victims to remove themselves from these toxic situations and begin their roads to recovery and safety.”

“Habitat has seen first-hand how affordable home ownership transforms lives,” said Lori Leonard, the statewide representative for the 16 Habitats for Humanity across NJ. “Securing safe and affordable housing is not just a personal investment; it’s an investment in the future. It allows families to build equity over time, creating a pathway towards generational wealth. We applaud the legislative efforts to address the shortage of affordable housing in New Jersey, and support this bill for its thoughtful approach to work with communities and stakeholders.”

“The Supportive Housing Association has been a staunch advocate for affordable housing, recognizing it as a cornerstone for enabling people with special needs to lead independent lives,” said Diane Riley, Executive Director of the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey. “This legislation continues and improves upon the great strides that we have made in the last ten years, holding the potential to make a lasting and empowering impact on their lives.”

“The Housing Development Team at Monarch possesses an extensive track record of helping clients expand both the supply and accessibility of affordable housing. We believe that housing is a human right and every individual deserves affordable, safe, and permanent housing,” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates. “This bill serves as a crucial step in bringing that vision to fruition. We thank Speaker Coughlin and Assemblywoman Lopez for their dedication to expanding affordable housing in the State of New Jersey.”

“NJ Citizen Action has long championed affordable housing as a pathway to economic empowerment, especially for low-and-moderate-income households,” said Beverly Brown-Ruggia, Financial Justice Program Director at New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA). “This bill would support our work towards social, racial and economic justice for all by aiming to ensure that every resident, regardless of income, has a place to call home, paving the way for resilient and equitable neighborhoods.”

“Affordable housing is an essential element of healthy, resilient communities and the legislation advanced today aligns with New Jersey Future’s commitment to building sustainable and affordable neighborhoods,” said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future. “We believe that local leaders can proactively plan for and integrate affordable housing in their communities that results in enhanced economic, socially equitable, and environmentally beneficial outcomes. We appreciate the Assembly’s initiative in addressing this critical issue and look forward to advancing well-planned, safe, stable and affordable housing throughout New Jersey.”

“Generations of Black and brown communities have endured an unjust reality, as they are priced out of generational homes without affordable housing options,” said Rev. Eric Dobson, Deputy Director at Fair Share Housing Center. “There is no better time than the present to recognize and rectify these longstanding issues, and this bill is a crucial step towards creating accessibility and inclusivity in affordable housing.”

“Fair Share Housing Center confronts housing inequities to guarantee every New Jerseyan the opportunity for a home they can afford and a sense of community,” said Adam Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Share Housing. “The legislation put forth by Assemblywoman Lopez and Speaker Coughlin reflects our commitment to housing justice, eliminating barriers imposed by the racial wealth gap and discriminatory policies, and ensuring that affordable homes are accessible to all.”