The initiative would allocate $300 million in American Rescue Plan funds the state received from the federal government to create the fund.
NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy's proposal to help clear the current backlog of 3,300 affordable housing units by the time he leaves office in 2026 falls short of bringing the American dream of homeownership to reality for all Garden State residents, some housing experts told Patch.
Murphy's proposal — which he announced during his budget address last month — hinges on state lawmakers passing a budget that allocates $300 million in American Rescue Plan funds the state received to create the Affordable Housing Production Fund.
Is The Fund Enough?
Even if the Affordable Housing Production Fund survives the budget negotiation process, there are data that suggest it may not make a significant dent in the number of affordable housing units the state needs.
For example, a 2017 report titled "New Jersey Affordable Housing Needs and Expectations indicated a prospective need of 64,844 units by the end of 2025.
Also, a 2018 story on nj.com indicated that about 155,000 affordable housing units are needed across the state.
Even if those models were right on target for their time, those numbers are far short of 64,844.
In addition, Lori Leonard, CEO of the Habitat for Humanity of South Central New Jersey told Patch that the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly thrust many people into the market looking for affordable housing.
"The pandemic made it difficult for people to pay for their mortgages and they're in foreclosure right now. Rents are [also] increasing," she said in an interview. "All these things kind of coming together as a perfect storm [and] wreaking havoc on low-income families. It's really tough out there for people."
Other organizations said that more is needed to address New Jersey's low-income housing needs than just the Affordable Housing Production Fund.
"This allocation should be just the first step in the state legislature and administration developing a statewide housing policy and again provide an administrative alternative for municipalities to the inefficient and ineffective court process," Mike Cerra, New Jersey League of Municipalities executive director said in testimony last month before the State Assembly Budget Committee.
Adam Gordon, the Fair Share Housing Center's executive director, said in a statement that the Affordable Housing Production Fund makes "a significant impact on the deep shortage of affordable homes in New Jersey."
He added the Affordable Housing Production Fund must also be "part of a comprehensive budget strategy including fully funding the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund for producing and preserving affordable homes and making critical investments in foreclosure prevention and civil rights enforcement."
State Legislator Support Not Clear
The potential of the Affordable Housing Production Fund is moot if it is not included in the version of the state budget that passes.
Some of the state lawmakers Patch reached out to for this story agreed with Murphy that affordable housing is important, but did not specifically say "yes" or "no" when asked if they planned to support that part of Murphy's proposed spending plan.
"Making New Jersey more affordable for families and ensuring housing security are two priorities for the Assembly this fiscal year," State Assemblywoman and Majority Whip Carol Murphy told Patch.
State Senator Troy Singleton added in an interview with Patch that he is "keenly aware of the housing challenges that exist in our state, especially the need for more affordable housing in our communities. I have long-championed policies that have expanded housing production in our state."
Other state lawmakers did not respond to Patch's request for comment or said they did not wish to comment on the initiative at this time.