The needler in the haystack.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Will affordable housing reform be Jerry's legislative legacy?

Jerry's bill targets affordable housing.
When I told Plainfield Assemblyman Jerry Green at last week's cocktail fundraiser for City Council candidates Rebecca Williams and Bill Reid that plenty of folks thought he was crazy to pick such a public fight with Sen. Ray Lesniak last spring over affordable housing reform, Jerry quickly said, "Well you see who the Senator has lined up with now, don't you?"

And he is right.

Back in June, Jerry vowed not to take the Lesniak road of railroading the bill through, but to give all sides an opportunity to be heard, as he was quoted in a Ledger story at the time (see here) --

"We we will do this right, with input from everyone," said Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), chairman of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee. "I don’t want to be back here next year debating yet another affordable-housing bill. I don’t want an endless court fight. I want a system that works, and if that means taking time to do it right, then that’s what we’re going to do.

"With that in mind, the committee will not be moving legislation during Thursday’s hearing," Green continued. "We will discuss the bill and all our options, and I an assure everyone that their opinions will be welcomed and heard."
The June 30 deadline that Lesniak and Gov. Christie wanted came and passed. Without Jerry's committee signing off on the Lesniak bill.

Over the summer, Jerry reworked the bill (Lesniak tells the Philadelphia Inquirer -- see here -- he had a big hand in it) which his Housing and Local Government Services committee is preparing to report out to the Assembly.

The bill will abolish COAH (the Council on Affordable Housing), which is universally despised for turning the quest for affordable housing into a bureaucratic quagmire -- hated by towns, developers and elected officials in equal measure.

Jerry's version of the bill addresses an issue that has been on my mind for a long time -- what to do about cities like Plainfield, mostly built up and with little vacant land and with a sizeable population eligible for free school lunches, but with great swaths of housing that need to be upgraded or rehabbed to make their neighborhoods more attractive to residents and those looking to buy in the Queen City.

Jerry's bill excuse these communities from providing more affordable housing, but would require them to adopt a rehabilitation plan and would provide a channel for funds to help get the rehabbing done.

Jerry's bill would also phase back in over five years fees for developers to fund these rehab plans in the poorer cities.

Those are the good parts.

I worry that the formula for funding affordable housing in more upscale communities will not provide many -- or any -- units and will instead be a big loophole for developers to drive through.

However, the bill makes steps in the right direction. We will see if there are further adjustments as a result of hearings in Jerry's committee.

In the meantime, this may well become Jerry's legacy contribution capping a long legislative career.

None of us is getting any younger -- myself and Jerry included.

Wouldn't it be nice to cap a long legislative career not only with the gavel of the speaker pro-tempore, but with legislation that will affect -- and improve -- New Jersey's housing situation for decades to come?



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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who would ever have thought that I would be on the same side as Jerry Green? I hope this bill turns out to be fair for all.

Blackdog said...

How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb?
They can't!
40% want to turn clockwise, 40% want to turn counterclockwise and 20% are undecided and want to form a comitee to assess the feasability of the project!
And none of them can agree on what size bulb to use! Or for that matter, what brand or color!

Anonymous said...

Jerry Green's legacy will also include his successful efforts to abolish the death penalty in NJ and his remarkable leadership on domestic partnership and civil unions. They wouldn't have passed without him.

Anonymous said...

Dan are you really saying something nice about Jerry? I can die now.