From the Field: New Jersey Governor Makes a Historic Investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the state budget on July 1, including a historic investment in the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). For the first time in nearly a decade, the funds intended for creating safe, decent, accessible and affordable homes will be spent as intended - making New Jersey a place everyone can afford to call home. The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), an NLIHC state partner, worked tirelessly with legislative leaders and champions to increase investments in affordable housing in communities throughout New Jersey. 

New Jersey’s housing resources have remained stagnant for the past decade while the need for more affordable homes has grown significantly. According to NLIHC’s Out of Reach 2019 report, New Jersey is the fifth most expensive state in the nation for rental housing. To afford a two-bedroom apartment at $1,500 a month, a family must earn $60,000 a year. As rental costs keep increasing, fewer low-wage earners can afford a decent place to live.

Three years ago, the Network launched the Build a Thriving NJcampaign to address the state’s housing shortfall. As part of this campaign, advocates encouraged legislators to put funds intended for the AHTF into the Trust Fund. Year after year, the dollars were diverted to fill budget holes, forcing community developers to do what they could to meet the needs of communities with few resources. Advocates were undeterred, making phone calls, writing e-mails to lawmakers, conducting legislative visits, and conducting a Legislative Day, and they ultimately succeeded.

More than 150 housing advocates and community developers roamed the halls of the Trenton State House and conducted meetings with their elected officials as part of the Network’s Annual Legislative Day in June to ensure New Jersey legislators committed to fully funding the AHTF in the FY20 state budget. 

Assembly Members Jamel C. Holley (LD-20), Mila M. Jasey (LD-27), Britnee N. Timberlake (LD-34), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (LD-37), Assembly Housing Committee Chair Benjie E. Wimberley (LD-35) and Senators Nellie Pou (LD-35) and Dawn Marie Addiego (LD-8) were among those who committed to fully fund the AHTF during the event. 

The legislature and governor adhered to their promise of keeping more than $50 million in real estate transfer fees in the AHTF for FY20.  The $50 million will lead to the creation and rehabilitation of homes desperately needed for the lowest-income people. The increased investment for affordable homes is a start to addressing the state’s housing inequities.

“We are thrilled that Governor Murphy is fulfilling his commitment to fully fund the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF), ending a decade of diverting these funds,” said Staci Berger, executive director of the Network. “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 New Jersey’s economy by creating jobs, affordable homes, and generating tax revenue. Putting the state’s housing trust fund to work will build a thriving New Jersey.”

For more information about the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey and its 2019 legislative efforts, contact Arnold Cohen, senior policy advisor, at: [email protected] or 609-393-3752 ext. 1600.