June 7, 2012
Housing Trust Funds Should be Kept and Used Locally
Municipal officials across the State support legislation to extend the deadline to “commit to expend” municipal housing trust fund dollars. This is funding that is collected by municipalities to help towns meet their affordable housing obligations and provide funding that does not rely on the property tax. Loss of these resources would require municipalities to find other funding to help meet their obligations, including the property tax.
PL 2008, c. 46 established a four-year window for these fees to be “committed for expenditure” from the date of collection. Since then, the Council on Affordable Housing’s (COAH) 3rd round methodology, also proposed in 2008, was set-aside by the Courts. Various appeals of that decision were certified by the State Supreme Court in March 2011 but oral arguments have not been scheduled. Currently, there is no methodology in place and towns do not have their obligations. Further, numerous spending plans submitted by towns as far back as 2008 have sat idle and not been approved by COAH or the Department of Community Affairs. Additionally, all development in the State has suffered as a result of the recession.
Despite this, over $106 million has been spent by municipalities for these purposes since 2008, according to the DCA. DCA now reports that $161 million must be “spent” by July 17 or risk forfeiture to the State.
The League fully supports A-2717, sponsored by Assemblymen Anthony Bucco, John DiMaio and Gary Chiusano, S-1894 sponsored by Senator Anthony Bucco, A-2950, sponsored by Assemblyman Jerry Green and S-2011, sponsored by Senator Brian Stack.
These bills would provide for a reasonable extension to the deadline.
League President Art Ondish, Mayor of Mount Arlington said, “We have heard from our colleagues across the State in support of an extension to this deadline. The municipal housing trust funds are intended to assist the production of affordable housing and help municipalities meet their obligations. Many municipalities have not expended these dedicated funds, over the last 4 years, due to concerns in rule changes and how credit for participation would be applied. If clear direction would have been issued, without changes being implemented at will, I am sure more work would have been done and funds expended.”
Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis said, “We have been fortunate. With an approved spending plan, we have been able to spend over $1 million dollars since 2008. However, not all towns had approved plans and were able to commit this funding. This legislation will benefit families in need of affordable housing as well as our taxpayers.”
Washington Township (Morris) Mayor Ken Short stated, “Despite many obstacles, Washington Township has been able to spend over $1 million since 2008. We still have a balance, however, that we want to retain and use locally for the benefit of this community. We ask the Legislature and the Administration to support our efforts. “
Parsippany-Troy Hills Mayor James Barberio said, “These trust funds serve a dual purpose. One, this funding assists municipalities in meeting their COAH obligations. And two, this funding offers protection to our taxpayers so that the municipality does not need to rely on other funding sources, including the property tax.
Bridgewater Mayor Daniel Hayes said, ““Bridgewater received both first and second round certification, creating over 700 affordable units in the municipality. We are in the process of receiving third round certification and will continue to meet our obligation of providing affordable housing opportunities for the region’s residents. In doing so, we plan to leverage our trust funds and to address the pressing need of finding suitable alternatives for institutionalized individuals. Bridgewater needs our trust fund dollars to do so.
League Executive Director Bill Dressel noted, “In 2008, the Legislature passed the Permit Extension Act, and again extended permits in 2010. Currently, there is yet another effort to extend permits. If the Legislature sees fit to extend developer permits in times of recession, then certainly an extension to facilitate the construction of affordable housing should enjoy broad, bipartisan support.
League President Ondish concluded, “Loss of this funding will compel municipalities to secure future funding from taxpayers, instead of from the dedicated fees collected from builders and developers. These funds help towns meet their obligations and offer taxpayer protection.”
Contact: Mike Cerra at 609-695-3481 ext. 120, cell 609-532-2494 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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