BY TOM HESTER SR.
Gov. Chris Christie Monday conditionally vetoed legislation that he claims fails to change how affordable housing is provided in New Jersey.
The governor said the Democratic-amended legislation falls far short of its original intent by creating a new bureaucracy and continuing and increasing an unnecessary burden on local governments.
"If the goal of this legislation is to replace an already broken system for providing affordable housing with a common sense, predictable and achievable process, then this bill sorely misses the mark," Christie said. "The Senate has presented a considerably different version of the legislation I originally supported in June – one that was simple and sufficiently close to the recommendations contained in the March 19, 2010, report of the Housing Opportunity Task Force.
"This version perpetuates the Council on Affordable Housing nightmare by placing further burdens on municipalities and the environment while creating rather than eliminating additional bureaucracies in order to satisfy the needs of special interests," the governor declared. "I believe this bill should be amended to return it to its original, beneficial form as passed by the Senate in June."The original version of bill S-1 passed by the Senate in June called for eliminating COAH and the affordable housing numbers it assigned to cities and towns requiring that 1 out of every 10 newly constructed housing units be designated as affordable. Towns with no open space remaining would have no further affordable housing obligation other than to inventory and rehabilitate its existing affordable housing stock. The measure limited state review of municipal housing plans, protected against builder's remedy lawsuits for local governments, and eliminated commercial development fees, though residential development fees were permitted to be charged if a developer chose not to build affordable units on-site and decided to pay the residential development fee instead.
Christie called these Democratic-sponsored amendments to the bill unacceptable. It requires 10 percent of all the new housing units in every municipality in the state to be affordable, necessitates that 25 percent of the affordable housing obligation be met by inclusionary development, legislates sprawl by increasing the amount of mandated new housing by 500 percent to 700 percent.
The governor also dislikes that the measure creates a new regulated entity to review a municipality's housing plans, would cause towns to have to pay for two planners – one to draft the plan, and the other to certify it meets the requirements of the bill, provides no meaningful protection against builder's remedy lawsuits, and requires towns in the Highlands, Pinelands, Fort Monmouth and Meadowlands districts to have 15 percent to 20 percent of all new construction as affordable.
Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union) sponsored the lower house version of the bill. He said that in the conditional veto, Christie is seeking the original version of the legislation that was judged unconstitutional by the state Office of Legislative Services and imposed a 2.5 percent fee on businesses. Green said his version was deemed constitutional and lowered the fee to 1.5 percent
The governor has now made it clear that he supports unconstitutional legislation that imposes higher fees on New Jersey businesses," Green said. “The last thing New Jersey and its economy needs is unworkable laws that force businesses to pay higher taxes, but that’s exactly what the governor has endorsed with this unfortunate decision. Our bill was backed by a broad range of businesses, housing advocates, legal experts and local officials who understood it was the best way to provide housing for working class residents, create jobs and spark the economy. The governor, sadly, wants higher business taxes and a court fight. That accomplishes nothing.”