Opponents of Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to sweep about $142 million in affordable housing funds say they are still reeling from the shock of a Wednesday meeting called by the state’s top housing regulator.
The New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing met this week and voted on a measure officials say begins the process of taking the town’s unused funds. Members approved a resolution that asks towns to send proof of their plans to tap into the unused funds and send unspent money to the council within three weeks.
It’s the first time in more than two years that the council met as the legal battle over the funds continues to be fought out in the courts.
Opponents decried the move as a backhanded attempt to sweep the funds they say are going to be used to build or renovate thousands of homes, including ones for low-income families and victims of Superstorm Sandy.
“There’s a basic question of fairness here and that is what’s got so many people riled up about this,” said Adam Gordon of the Fair Share Housing Center, which opposes the administration’s plans to use the funds to help balance the budget.
Gordon said the state’s plan is “especially” egregious because it will sweep funds towns say will go toward helping the Sandy recovery effort. He estimates 57 percent of the money is in counties working to rebuild after the storm.
“They’re saying to a town like Stafford Township or Middle Township, ‘Hey, tell us in two weeks why we shouldn’t take this money away from you,’” Gordon said.
Currently, the battle over the affordable housing dollars is making its way through the courts.
Gordon said he didn’t know whether towns intended to comply with the resolution or whether it would be another piece of the longer battle over the funds.
Fair Share Housing Center has fought to block the transfer of the affordable housing funds to the state’s coffers. The deadline to send unused dollars to the state was created in 2008, but townships have argued that no mechanism or guidelines are in place to commit the funds they have in trust.