From the Field: New Jersey Governor Commits to Fully Eliminate Diversions of Money from State Affordable Housing Trust Fund

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy presented his Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget on March 5. The budget fully eliminates diversions of money from the state Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) and restores the $59 million that had been diverted last year. Advocates from the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the` Network), an NLIHC state partner, spent the past decade advocating for the revenue in the AHTF to remain intact and not diverted to other uses. In 2017 the Network launched the “Build a Thriving NJ” campaign to get a commitment from legislative leaders and the future governor to invest in the Trust Fund. The Network commended the governor for making a strong commitment this year to protect the Fund and urges the legislature to ensure the final FY20 budget reflects the governor’s AHTF plans.

The AHTF receives annual revenue from a fee on every home sale. Since 2009, however, revenue has often been diverted to pay for non-housing programs. Advocates were successful in preserving some AHTF revenue for housing production in 2018, when New Jersey Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake introduced a budget amendment to preserve $15 million of the Fund. Advocates praised the assemblywoman for courageously fighting for affordable homes in her first term in the New Jersey General Assembly. Governor Murphy’s announcement that he intends to fully fund the AHTF for FY20 is another significant step forward for affordable housing in the state.

“We are thrilled that Governor Murphy is fulfilling his commitment to fully fund the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, ending a decade of diverting these funds,” stated Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey President and Chief Executive Officer Staci Berger. “Last year, the Real Estate Transfer Fee raised nearly $60 million for this fund. Public investments like this have helped non-profit community developers contribute $500 million annually to NJ’s economy by creating jobs, affordable homes, and generating tax revenue. Putting the state’s housing trust fund to work will build a thriving NJ.

“Housing affordability is an enormous concern for NJ residents. Last year, 86 percent of respondents told the Rutgers-Eagleton poll that housing affordability is a serious issue and supported using the Trust Fund as intended. Today’s announcement brings hope for our friends, families, and neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet. We look forward to working with the governor and the legislature to see this budget adopted so we can all afford to call NJ home.”

For more information, contact Housing and Community Development Network Policy Director Arnold Cohen at: acohen@hcdnnj.org