Middletown Calls On Christie, Legislature To Allow Affordable Housing Funds To Assist Sandy Impacted Homeowners
Citing the shortage of federal and state funds available to assist Superstorm Sandy impacted homeowners in rebuilding their homes, the Middletown Township Committtee this week joined Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon in calling on the state legislature and Governor Chris Christie to put the more than $100 million in Affordable Housing Funds that are sitting dormant to work.
With a unanimous 5-0 vote, the committee passed a resolution on Monday, April 21, calling for legislation that would reinstate Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs) “for the limited purpose of getting victims of Superstorm Sandy back in their homes during this time of need.”
RCAs were created in the original 1985 Fair Housing Act whereby towns with funds raised from developer fees or through bonding could transfer up to half of those funds to another community for the purpose of building affordable housing as required by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mt. Laurel decision.
In 2008, Governor Jon Corzine signed legislation that prohibited the use of RCAs for financing the development of affordable housing units. Critics of the RCA program contend that allowing “rich towns” to transfer their affordable housing obligation to “poor towns” is effectively “redlining,” i.e., keeping the poor, often minorities, out of the wealthier towns. Last month, Senate President Steve Sweeney said RCAs “put poor white folk and poor black folk out of town.”
Middletown Committeeman Tony Fiore said the resolution offers a common sense solution to address an immediate desperate need.
“Affordable housing has always been a part of Monmouth County’s bayshore. We have a desperate need now,” Fiore said. “It’s been been 18 months since Sandy devastating our communities. Many people have been short changed on insurance policies they paid for faithfully for decades. They can’t afford to rebuild what they had and Governor Christie said that the federal monies to help people will be tens of billions of dollars less than needed. There is between $100 million and $200 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It makes economic sense to use that money to get people in need back into their homes now. There is no need to build mega new construction under COAH in Monmouth and Ocean counties.”
Last month O’Scanlon, in response to Hornik’s call for the reinstatement of RCAs, said he would propose legislation that would accomplish that goal. The Assembly has not been in session since Speaker Vincent Prieto abruptly adjourned the chamber on March 31, rather than allow a vote on Christie’s version of the of the Interest Arbitration Cap that has held the growth of property taxes to less than 2% over the last four years. O’Scanlon told MMM that the legislation is ready to go as soon as the Assembly has a quorum call.
In his OpEd last month calling for the reinstatement of RCAs to assist Sandy victims, Hornik said there is at least $180 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that could be used to assist homeowners in Monmouth, Ocean and Atlantic county towns rebuild.
Yet to this day the planners in Trenton wrangle over rules to determine how towns must address their affordable housing, going on 15 years now, when it should be painfully obvious that the need for our community (and our region) is staring us in the face. Current state laws prohibit Marlboro from helping those communities who are in desperate need for housing assistance after Sandy. There is no mechanism for Marlboro to spend its trust funds for the benefit of, for example, Union Beach or the Highlands, because there are no rules that allow us to do so. We can’t fulfill a fundamental tenet of Mt. Laurel, and help our neighbors because the authority to do so isn’t there. And why not?
Hornik said in a phone interview, “No one in Trenton can honestly say that COAH is working. We have an immediate and compelling need. Let’s address it.”