Governor Murphy signs bill allowing private construction inspections

By: - January 5, 2023 6:08 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy speaking in Elizabeth before signing a bill intended to pave the way for more housing. (Courtesy of the New Jersey Governor’s Office)

New Jersey will allow towns to supplement construction code enforcement with help from the private sector under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed Thursday.

The broadly bipartisan measure allows municipalities to contract with private-sector inspection firms and enter into shared service agreements with neighboring towns to ensure code inspection delays don’t snarl development.

“As both builders and homeowners can tell you, time is money, and more time in construction means less-affordable homes,” Murphy said at an Elizabeth press conference preceding the bill signing.

The new law will also require municipalities to complete inspections within three business days of the date requested by a developer. If a town fails to meet that deadline, builders can pay for a private-sector inspection on their own.

The measure requires local governments to submit annual reports on compliance with the new deadlines to the Department of Community Affairs and notify the department if they are unable to keep pace with the new timetables.

Business groups and building trades unions have long pushed for reforms to state inspections, charging the delay-ridden process can halt construction in its tracks, racking up costs all the while.

“Many towns do not have enough construction officials on staff or available to do inspections on a timely manner, and when that happens there are delays in progressing projects. It could be days in some instances, or it could be weeks or months,” said Ray Cantor, deputy chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which backed the bill.

The Department of Community Affairs will oversee compliance with the new rules and is empowered to levy penalties on municipalities that consistently fail to meet the new statutory deadlines.

Officials repeatedly stressed the move to allow private inspections would not slacken safety standards.

“Our Division of Codes and Standards, I know you’ve all dealt with them. You know my guys are hard-nosed, hardcore. They’re not cutting corners. Safety is the rule of the day in DCA at codes and standards,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, New Jersey’s community affairs commissioner.

Oliver said officials will look to make further reforms to state code enforcement, including electronic permitting.

“We will get there,” she said.

Affordable housing

Officials hailed the bill as a needed step to meet New Jersey’s affordable housing obligations, charging the new rules would cut costs by eliminating delays.

They also announced more than $19 million in new funding for affordable housing projects in New Jersey.

The money, a combination of state and federal dollars, will fund the construction of 79 affordable housing units, an investment the governor called critical amid rising housing costs.

An affordable housing project in Elizabeth will receive the largest share of those funds, and the $3.8 million award is meant to stand up 20 affordable units there.

“This is going to help the people who need that affordable housing to be able to get in there sooner,” said Assemblyman Rob Karabinchak (D-Middlesex), the bill’s prime sponsor. “That’s so important for everyone, for their lives. This is a major step for New Jersey.”


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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.