From the Record:
Governor Christie on Thursday recommended eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing and repealing the Fair Housing Act, the agency and law that largely guided housing development across New Jersey for the past 25 years.
Describing the changes as a shift from state to local control, the Republican governor endorsed a system in which towns — rather than the state — would determine how much low- and moderate-income housing they need. The plan, which needs legislative approval, would require future projects to either include affordable housing or require developers to pay into a fund to build affordable housing elsewhere.
“This is about getting Trenton the hell out of the business of telling people how many units they’re supposed to have — some arbitrary, ridiculous formula that nobody could ever explain,” Christie said. “We need to lift that wet blanket off of the municipalities and put the people who were elected back in control of making these decisions. And I believe that they’ll approach that in a fair and responsible way after having been put upon for so long with controls — undue controls — from Trenton.”
The proposals immediately drew praise from municipal representatives, but criticism from affordable housing advocates and environmentalists. “Affordable” means monthly housing expenses eat up only 28 percent of renters’ incomes and 30 percent for homeowners, including rent, mortgage, utilities, homeowners association fees, insurance and property taxes, according to the state.
Advocates said the move would return the state to practices that occurred before the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions, so named for the township that was sued for its zoning policy. The courts said a town’s poor residents needed a “realistic opportunity” to live in an affordable home, and towns needed to also take surrounding towns’ needs into consideration. The decisions sparked a generation of lawsuits.
“The reason the court acted the way that it did was because towns were not giving families the opportunities to have the kind of housing they could afford,” said Kevin Walsh, the associate director of Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending Mount Laurel. “We’re not sure why the governor thinks that we can go backward.”