New Jersey legislators unveiled comprehensive policy on affordable housing today that could bring an end to the practice of cities like Trenton accepting the affordable housing obligations of its rich neighbors in exchange for cash.
Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, and Ewing’s own Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer, are two of the sponsors of the policy, which came in the form of a 12-point plan addressing the complex and controversial issue of affordable housing in New Jersey.
The plan would completely eliminate Regional Contribution Agreements, which were the vehicle of the low-income families-for-cash gravy train that critics say has damaged the social fabric of New Jersey’s urban areas.
“By allowing a municipality to cut its affordable-housing obligation in half, RCAs make it challenging and sometimes impossible for working New Jerseyans with modest incomes to live in the suburban communities where they work,” said Speaker Roberts in a statement Tuesday. “RCAs also lead to concentrated poverty.”
Mayor Douglas H. Palmer of Trenton and other urban mayors have consistently accepted the money until recently, using them to make up funding gaps in the cash-strapped budgets of their cities.
Trenton’s lagging economy and socio-economic problems have been linked to the concentration of poverty that has developed in some sections of the city, which has been augmented through Mayor Palmer’s use of RCAs.
The plan would also require state-assisted development projects to be composed of at least 20 percent affordable units, and increase the maximum income for people eligible for affordable housing.
To make up the gap in urban budgets created by the elimination of RCAs, the proposals call for the New Jersey government to make up the funding out of its own coffers and work with cities to address future budget issues.