State moves one step closer to the death of RCAs

State legislators took a major step in closing one of the largest loopholes in New Jersey affordable housing law Monday, when the Assembly passed a bill that will end the use of the Regional Contribution Agreements.

RCAs were a major obstacle to the universal provision of affordable housing throughout the state, because they allowed municipalities to hand off their affordable housing obligations to other cash-strapped towns and cities for a certain amount of money per housing unit transferred.

The state’s lower house voted 45 to 33 in passing the bill, with every single Republican in the entire room voting against the measure, and a handful of Democrats choosing to abstain on the measure.

“The time has finally come for New Jersey to open the door to affordable housing for the countless working families who are in need of a reasonably priced place to call home,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer, in a statement.

The victims of RCAs were the state’s poorer towns and cities and their inhabitants, which progressively found themselves living in larger and larger pockets of poverty as their local governments signed up for RCAs as a way to get around long-term fiscal problems through short-term infusions of cash.

That cash – usually around $30,000 or $40,000 per unit – usually ended up being woefully short in dealing with the litany of economic and social problems that came with concentrating large populations of the poor in small urban areas throughout the state.

The funding gap caused by the elimination of the RCAs will be partially filled through raised development fees, which could go into a state fund reserved for the construction of new affordable housing or the rehabilitation of existing housing.

The bill faces deliberations in the state Senate next week, and with an affirmative vote there, it could be quickly signed into law by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

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