TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) to abolish the state Council on Affordable Housing was approved 43-32 Monday by the Assembly.
The bill (S-1/A-3447) would also eliminate the 2.5 percent fee on commercial development to help pay for affordable housing development and provide major housing obligation reductions for municipalities throughout New Jersey.
Some housing advocates have argued that the bill doesn’t do enough to make sure that towns provide enough low- and moderate-income housing.
“The bill lets municipalities off the hook with doing a fraction of their obligations under COAH,” said Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center. “These numbers are quite simply too low to meet the need for low- and moderate-income housing under the Mount Laurel doctrine.”
Environmentalists were also critical of the bill, saying that it promotes sprawl and allows developers to have too much power.
“This bill is scary. It turns planning and zoning on its head. The bill targets rural and environmentally sensitive areas for development while letting growing, suburban towns off the hook. This bill got rid of COAH only to give all the power to the developers,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.
The bill has its supporters in Trenton.
“New Jersey will finally have a viable housing plan for its hard-working families that is also good for business and workable for mayors,” said Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Plainfield.) “This bill gives towns relief from COAH’s unreasonable demands, offers businesses a much-needed break and clears the way for housing for lower-income New Jerseyans to finally actually be built in our state. It is a sound and reasonable approach that bodes well for New Jersey’s future.”
If Gov. Christie signs the legislation, it would:
- Abolish the state Council on Affordable Housing, or COAH.
- Provide a major decrease in municipal housing obligations compared to the ones required by COAH.
- Exempt 71 municipalities from housing obligations. These municipalities have more than 50 percent of their children participating in free or reduced school lunch programs.
- Require municipalities with 20 to 50 percent of their children on free and reduce lunch to ensure 8 percent of their housing is for low- and moderate-income families.
- Require municipalities with less than 20 percent of their children on free and reduced lunch to ensure 10 percent of their housing is for low- and moderate-income families.
- Eliminate the 2.5 percent fee on commercial development.
- Subject residential development that does not include low- and moderate-income housing to a 1.5 percent development fee.
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