100,000 Affordable Homes

From the Asbury Park Press:

Corzine must get cracking on promise for low-cost homes

In recently published reports, Gov. Corzine made some dismaying remarks regarding the promise he made in his 2005 gubernatorial campaign, and often repeated since, to develop a plan to build and preserve 100,000 homes for lower-income New Jerseyans. We are disappointed Corzine appears to be moving away from that commitment, and we hope he reconsiders any decision to abandon his promise.

The governor cited the price tag — supposedly $300 million — as the biggest obstacle. But with no road map for achieving the goal, how can anyone trust this figure? He directed his administration to produce a plan by the end of 2006, but there is still no plan.

A good plan may include measures that cost money, but as we have repeatedly told the governor and his staff, there are numerous no-cost and low-cost actions they could take today — and could have taken a year ago — to boost production and preservation of affordable housing.

The governor could mandate that affordable housing conditions be attached to all sales of state-owned land, issue an executive order requiring that all state-supported development projects, including transit villages, include affordable housing, and push to require that all affordable homes eliminated as a result of redevelopment be replaced.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg produced a plan to build 500,000 units within six months of taking office. In his first three years, New York, which has roughly the same population as New Jersey, produced 73,000 units. Twenty months after Corzine took office, there is still no plan for achieving his more modest goal of 100,000 units, and none of the steps mentioned above have been taken. Is it the money or is it the will?

Skyrocketing housing costs have made conditions worse for tens of thousands of struggling New Jersey families. In the recently published 2007 Kids Count Data Book, produced by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, New Jersey fell from third place in 2006 to ninth among the 50 states in the overall well-being of its children. According to this report, New Jersey has the highest percentage among the states of impoverished children living in families that cannot afford decent housing. With defaults and foreclosures rising sharply, conditions are likely to get worse over the next year or two.

The question is not whether we can afford to achieve this goal. It is: How can we afford not to?

If Corzine truly wants to build and preserve 100,000 homes for New Jersey residents, we remain committed and ready to help. We would be happy to assist the governor and his staff in developing and implementing a comprehensive housing plan for New Jersey, one that will meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents and make the housing delivery system far more effective than it is right now.

We hope the governor will accept one of our many offers to meet with him and explain the many options available to reaching our shared goal of 100,000 units in 10 years. We implore the governor not to give up the fight.

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