From the Field: “Build a Thriving New Jersey” Campaign Builds Momentum with 100 Public Official Endorsements

Housing advocates in New Jersey continue to advance a bold campaign to expand and restore state programs that build affordable homes, address homelessness, and revitalize neighborhoods. The Build a Thriving New Jersey campaign has the simple focus of providing a home for everyone in New Jersey. The campaign proposes a $600 million annual commitment from the state, the funding coming from a mixture of bonds, general revenue, and the state’s realty transfer fee. The newest indication that this expanded funding has broad support is the announcement that 100 state and local public officials throughout New Jersey are endorsing the effort as of September 14. Build a Thriving New Jersey is led by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (Network), an NLIHC state partner.

The recession of 2008 and accompanying foreclosure crisis hit New Jersey particularly hard, and the suffering was compounded by Superstorm Sandy battering the housing and infrastructure of coastal communities in 2012. The state’s housing challenges were exacerbated when state leaders used money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Lead Hazard Control Fund, and other important programs to address budget shortfalls. As New Jersey faces statewide elections and the selection of a new governor in 2017, Build a Thriving New Jersey provides a clear plan for the state’s next leaders and a policy marker for voters to consider when discussing solutions to rising rents and neighborhood blight.

Build a Thriving New Jersey specifies which of New Jersey’s housing programs should be prioritized with the proposed $600 million annual investment in affordable homes. The largest proposed amount of $200 million would go to Emergency Assistance Programs that provide benefits to those who are homeless or at immediate risk of becoming homeless and those who have experienced a substantial loss of housing, food, clothing, or household furnishings due to fire, flood, or similar disaster. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund would be funded at $125 million per year for the construction, repair, or redevelopment of homes people can afford. An additional $30 million would be dedicated to lead prevention and weatherization, and $30 million would be devoted to Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits (NRTC), used to promote both housing and economic development in distressed neighborhoods. The proposal calls for $31 million to support homeless service programs, $6 million of which would match incoming federal funding.

The Network argues that now is the time for a $600 million annual commitment. Build a Thriving New Jersey directly addresses the drastic cuts that have occurred over the past ten years to programs that support low income households in New Jersey. The Balanced Housing Production Program, Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, and HOME Express are just three of many programs to have their funding fully eliminated over a ten-year period, a total reduction of $120 million. Build a Thriving New Jersey proposes to restore these programs with increases beyond their previous funding levels.

“We are delighted to have so much support from public officials throughout New Jersey,” said Network President and CEO Staci Berger. “An investment in affordable homes for New Jersey residents will result in tangible benefits that we see and feel every day, right in the communities where we work and live. Our state will thrive when our families, friends and neighbors, who are the backbone of our economy, can afford to live here.”

For more information about Build a Thriving New Jersey, contact Arnold Cohen, the Network’s senior policy coordinator at: acohen@hcdnnj.org

Learn more about Build a Thriving New Jersey at: http://www.hcdnnj.org/BuildaThrivingNJ

Read the press release announcing 100 public officials support of the campaign at: http://bit.ly/2ydNcwg