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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bill from Sen. Rice seeks to keep affordable homes affordable

With the glut of home foreclosures striking New Jersey’s impoverished urban areas the hardest, Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, saw fit to introduce a bill this week that would ensure low-income and affordable homes resold because of foreclosure remain within the ranks of New Jersey’s affordable residential units, instead of being sold at market rates.

“The lack of affordable housing has long been a major problem facing New Jersey residents, and unfortunately, tough economic times have only pushed our low to moderate income families into foreclosure,” said Sen. Rice, in a statement Wednesday. “This state has worked hard to subsidize and reserve affordable housing properties for occupancy by low and moderate income families and the slowing economic and rising mortgage interests rates have caused many of these units to be foreclosed upon.”

Under the bill, S-1622, affordable housing units in foreclosure could be sold only to other qualified low or moderate-income households, thus keeping these units reserved for occupancy by the intended population.

New Jersey changed its affordable housing regulations in recent years, but older units mortgaged prior to the law change were not protected from being transferred into market rate units, according to Sen. Rice’s office.

The measure might be a helpful one in middle-class and affluent communities where there is a great impetus to change affordable units to market-rate, to gain profits.

But in New Jersey’s urban areas sit a disproportionate amount of the state’s affordable housing units, following years of railroading those units and the people who live in them into the state's poorer urban areas.

For places like Trenton and Newark to reverse this trend, officials there need to get more market-rate housing and middle-income families into homes within their city limits, but it looks like Sen. Rice’s legislation, if passed, could become a roadblock in those efforts.

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