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Monday, June 9, 2008

RCA-killing bill advances

The elimination of Regional Contribution Agreements came one step closer to fruition last week when the Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to release legislation reforming much of the state’s affordable housing rules to the Assembly for a full vote.

“The legislature can no longer take an ostrich-like view of the state’s housing policy,” said sponsor and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, in a statement. “New Jerseyans need homes they can afford and jobs they can reach. That state must lead by example by expanding access to equitable and affordable housing.”

The bill – A500 – would end the use of RCAs and require a 20 percent set aside of affordable housing units for all development projects receiving state assistance, including Office of Smart Growth areas and transit villages.

As one of the more controversial state policies, RCAs allow municipalities to sell off portions of their affordable housing obligations to other towns instead of actually building housing within their borders.

RCAs have effectively concentrated the state's poor in downtrodden pockets of poverty within urban areas of that state, according to detractors. They say that serious fiscal problems in cities necessitate involvement in the agreements, with the revenue received usually failing to cover the cost of concentrated poverty and its associated social problems.

Under the bill, funds that the state’s urban areas received through the use of RCAs would be instead be generated by an increased 2.5 percent fee on all nonresidential development.

The replacement of deed-restricted affordable housing lost through redevelopment would also be mandated by the bill, effectively closing a loophole through which municipalities could eliminate affordable housing previously built in newly redeveloped areas.

The bill seems to try and address one of the most frequent complaints against Council on Affordable Housing mandates, in which public officials and others state that affordable housing rules conflict with other state mandates. This is done through the use of housing impact statements, which other state agencies are required to make when vetting new rules and regulations.

A500 will now faces deliberation in the entire New Jersey Assembly in the near future.

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