Camden, NJ
Informing and Connecting Engaged Citizens
August 30, 2014
Council on Affordable Housing releases $14 million in housing trust funds

Affordable housing projects in 13 towns, including Lawrence and Florence, received a boost this week when the Council on Affordable Housing approved the release of $14 million in frozen funds.

The towns were among many that had put aside money for affordable housing over the years and faced losing it in a battle with the state over whether they were serious about using the money.

The council’s action will help finance 1,000 affordable housing units statewide, a state official said.

Kevin Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit group in Cherry Hill, said the release of funds is a step in the right direction, but more than $140 million still has to be reviewed by COAH, which is charged with oversight of the Fair Housing Act.

“While this is a good start, it is important to see what happens next,” Walsh said. “We know that there is $14 million that has been protected and we want to know that more decisions will be made soon to get more funding out the door so it can be used.”

For years, the affordable housing program has been a source of dispute between fair housing advocates and the Christie administration.

Towns collect developer fees and put the money into local affordable housing trust funds for the purpose of rehabilitating existing housing, building new housing or subsidizing efforts by nonprofit groups to provide housing.

In 2012, Gov. Chris Christie sought to seize up to $165 million in unspent affordable housing trust funds, citing a 2008 law that said that towns that didn’t commit to spend money after four years were required to transfer the money to the state. But a state appellate court ruled that the administration could not seize the money unless local governments had been given an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment.

Towns had to submit documents to show how the funds were allocated, and on Tuesday spending plans for 13 towns were approved.

Lawrence’s commitment of $1.4 million will go toward three subgrant programs it proposed that would, among other things, rehabilitate housing occupied by income-eligible residents and allow the township to purchase affordable housing units that are in danger of foreclosure, said township manager Richard Krawczun.

Meanwhile, Florence, which was given approval for its commitment of $257,096, will use the funds for two projects: the installation of energy-saving measures at a unit owned by nonprofit Salt and Light Co. and the conversion of the former Duffy School into a senior affordable housing apartment complex.

The other towns were Cherry Hill, Gloucester Township, North Caldwell, South Brunswick, Manasquan, Tinton Falls, Long Hill, Mendham Borough, Randolph Township, Clifton and Summit.

Staff Writer Brendan McGrath contributed to this report.

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NJ.com True New Jersey
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