Seeking to bolster affordable housing in N.J., group calls for $600 million in tax credits

The philanthropic group Fund for New Jersey is offering recommendations to help those struggling with high housing costs.

A row of suburban townhomes; vinyl siding, shrubs, and blue skies

The Ethel R. Lawrence Homes was the first affordable housing complex built in the suburbs under the Mount Laurel Doctrine. (Mark Lozier/Fair Share Housing Development)

Many New Jersey residents are struggling with the high costs of housing, according to the Fund for New Jersey, a philanthropic foundation that has offered several recommendations to increase the number of affordable homes.

Staci Berger, who leads the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, said one proposal calls for $600 million in tax credits for developers to build affordable housing for working families, seniors, and those with disabilities.

“For us, this is really a question of political will. The vast majority of that funding is already being collected by the state. About $495 million to $500 million of it already comes in through realty transfer fees,” she said. “It just has simply been diverted and needs to be restored.”

Another recommendation calls for the state to create a program to purchase vacant foreclosed properties and rehabilitate them as affordable homes.

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Peter Reinhart, a professor of real estate policy at Monmouth University, said a combination of state funding and incentives for the private sector is needed.

“New Jersey is a still a very desirable state to live in and work, make no bones about it, but it is in danger of losing market share to other states if we don’t do more to address the housing needs of current residents — as well as future ones.”

Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center said many local officials welcome the chance to put together a fair housing plan.

“They realize that the old lumber yard in town really could benefit from redevelopment. They realize that there’s a lot to gain from promoting housing near the train station,” he said Wednesday. “And they realize the sky is not going to fall if they update their zoning ordinances to permit multi-family housing.”

Advocates say developing more affordable homes could encourage more residents to stay in the state instead of moving to less-expensive locations.

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