New Jersey Senate pushes affordable housing bill to next legislative session

By: - January 5, 2024 6:54 am

Sen. Troy Singleton said “nuanced policy disagreements” had snagged the bill, which would eliminate the defunct Council on Affordable Housing. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)

The Senate won’t consider legislation making sweeping changes to the state’s affordable housing system before the Legislature’s session ends Tuesday, though the proposal is likely to return soon, its prime Senate sponsor said.

Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), the sponsor, said “nuanced policy disagreements” had snagged the bill, which would eliminate the defunct Council on Affordable Housing and restrict lawsuits that can force development, among numerous other changes.

“That’s the natural process of making legislation, and I think we all took a deep breath and said, ‘This is something that can be transformational.’ It is so important that we want to make sure that we get it right and not just be expedient for expediency’s sake,” Singleton told the New Jersey Monitor.

Legislators, with Gov. Phil Murphy’s blessing, had planned to speed the bill into law in the waning days of the lame-duck session.

Though affordable housing advocates have roundly hailed the bill, the timeline lawmakers set for its passage had alarmed some local officials and housing attorneys who said lawmakers’ breakneck pace would cause problems in the future.

“It’s going to have a 10-year-and-beyond impact,” said League of Municipalities Executive Director Michael Cerra. “Obviously we’re eager to remain engaged, to look at what amendments are forthcoming, and we’re going to be hopeful that we’re able to work with legislative leaders and the administration to craft a proposal that works for municipalities for the next decade and beyond.”

Others have charged the new system, and the housing development it would bring, would strain New Jersey’s infrastructure.

Singleton, who chairs the Senate’s community and urban affairs committee, said the pushback was not responsible for the bill’s delay.

Some of the detractors still praised portions of the bill, including provisions that would curtail court oversight of local affordable housing obligations, oversight that has been in existence since the Judiciary declared the Council on Affordable Housing all but dead in 2015.

The bill’s supporters say the legislation would aid New Jersey in enabling the construction of the roughly 200,000 units the state needs to meet its affordable housing goals while reducing municipal legal costs stemming from builder’s remedy lawsuits, those that can force construction against a municipal governing body’s wishes.

The bill, which was jointly announced by Democratic legislative leaders from both chambers just last month, has won a measure of support from Murphy and is likely to make it to law eventually. It’s expected to reappear early in the coming legislative session.

“My first meeting of the next session, if I’m able to be this chairman again, that’s going to be the bill that’s heard, and I predict that I will be the chairman again,” Singleton said.

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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.

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