It is no secret that the cost of living in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation. Coupled with a severe shortage of affordable housing, many of our residents struggle every day to make ends meet. The state would have to provide at least 155,000 new units of affordable housing by 2025 to meet the need for more housing.
Municipalities have not received guidance on how to create and maintain affordable housing since 1999. In 2015, the courts ruled for towns to manage these needs, and New Jersey’s state judiciary has overseen affordable housing obligations since.
This begs the question: How do we bridge the need for affordable housing in New Jersey? To start, there are three important areas of focus – rehabilitation, preservation, and development.
Though the Supreme Court’s ruling on Mercer County affordable housing obligations focused on the construction of new affordable housing communities, it is equally important to focus on the preservation and rehabilitation of existing properties. In communities such as Paterson where I am from, there is a plethora of homes and buildings left abandoned without upkeep. By creating programs that will help to fund construction, rental assistance, and housing sustainability, we could be using resources that are already available to us to make housing readily accessible to our working-class families.
According to the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, over 190 towns have taken the initiative to create opportunities for affordable homes in their communities without legal intervention. In other municipalities, settlements have been negotiated. Municipalities are now motivated to create more housing opportunities for all residents. This is a good thing.
As the newly appointed Chairman of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, as well as a member of the Joint Committee on Housing Affordability, my top priority is helping to make New Jersey an affordable place to live. Affordable housing helps to give New Jerseyans in our most impoverished communities a chance to own a home – and I intend to hear the concerns of residents from all over the state in an effort to rid New Jersey’s affordable housing crisis completely.
Written by Benjie Wimberly, who represents the 35th Legislative District in the New Jersey Assembly, which includes parts of Bergen and Passaic Counties.