Schepisi proposes putting the brakes on litigation while Legislature addresses affordable housing crisis

 Schepisi proposes putting the brakes on litigation

while Legislature addresses affordable housing crisis

TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey municipalities could get relief from building more than 200,000 low-income housing units and one-million new homes total under a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi on Tuesday.  The bill (A4666) imposes a moratorium on all affordable housing litigation until the end of the year.

“If we wait any longer the transformative impact on our communities will not be reversible,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen).  “Now is the time for the Legislature to act.”

Municipalities have spent millions of taxpayer dollars over the years fighting affordable housing mandates in court.  After a January NJ Supreme Court ruling forced towns to consider past housing needs for the first time, municipalities statewide are struggling to compensate.  The far-reaching mandate increases low-income housing need by 142 percent while forcing municipalities to permit building that would accommodate a 30 percent population increase.

“The court’s social engineering will devastate all 23 municipalities I represent and suburban municipalities throughout the entire state,” said Schepisi. “The legislature needs to stop ignoring affordable housing and instead should immediately act to fix this problem in a responsible manner.  While we focus our energies to vote on the state bird and state butterfly our communities are being turned into “mini-Brooklyns.”  We cannot let the court legislate what is best for individual communities.  This isn’t temporary; this is forever.  I am circulating a resolution to every mayor and council in the state seeking their support for an immediate legislative solution.”

Schepisi also introduced a companion bill (A4667) creating a short term commission that will study prior court decisions, the effectiveness of past affordable housing practices, and analyze projected population increases and corresponding housing need.  The commission will hold public hearings and is required to publish a report of its findings at the end of the year.

The January court mandate would unnecessarily increase housing supply by as much as 30 percent in the next 9 years, anticipating a population growth of 2.73 million.  If built, the number of new homes alone would exceed all the homes in the entire borough of Manhattan.  These projections would cost New Jersey taxpayers over $11.75 billion more in education.  Meanwhile, Rutger’s economists project a population increase of only .3 percent, or 219,000 people, per year until 2026.

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WHEREAS, municipalities do not have the resources to provide court mandated housing to comply with the Mount Laurel doctrine without proper funding; and

WHEREAS, lawsuits increase housing four-fold through court mandates and without an affirmative defense municipalities can do nothing to stop growth and sprawl, costing millions of dollars outside of local budgets; and

WHEREAS, property taxes must be raised exponentially to pay the costs associated with court mandates and, therefore, population, further overburdening taxpayers; and

WHEREAS, the cumulative impact of years of unfunded court mandates has left many municipalities with serious needs and burdensome property taxes; and

WHEREAS, expected state population growth of .3 percent does not provide sufficient demand to justify court-mandated 30 percent housing supply increase; further congesting our state; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey is already the most densely populated state in the country with 1,195 persons per square mile; and

WHEREAS, the quality of life and public welfare in this municipality will be reduced, negatively impacting infrastructure, water and sewer capacities; school class sizes and school services; municipal services such as volunteer and staffed ambulatory services and fire departments, police departments, public transportation and traffic; and

WHEREAS, the lack of affordable housing and rentals is not due to a lack of units, rather it stems from residents paying property taxes that are unaffordable and increasing by roughly $700 million annually; and

WHEREAS, the state of New Jersey should relieve the burden of unfunded court mandates and provide statewide parity and predictability in regard to municipal affordable housing obligations; and

WHEREAS, the Assembly is urged to pass Assembly Bill No. 4666 imposing an end-of-year moratorium on all affordable housing litigation; and Assembly Bill No. 4667 establishing the “Affordable Housing Obligation Study Commission” to assist in finding solutions to the affordable housing crisis foisted upon municipalities by the end of the year; and

WHEREAS, it is the responsibility of the state and the legislature to assist municipalities; and

WHEREAS, the time has come to reasonably address affordable housing needs in New Jersey to preserve the integrity of the state and its quality of life; now therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the (governing body of name of municipality) urges the state and the legislature to aid municipalities over-burdened by court-mandated affordable housing; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we enthusiastically must reach a solution to affordable housing in New Jersey; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that certified copies of this Resolution be forwarded to Governor Chris Christie, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles A. Richman, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, New Jersey Senate Republican Leader Thomas Kean, Jr., New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, New Jersey Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, our State Senator _______________________, our Assembly(wo)men ______________________ and ________________________, and to the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

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