Statewide Association Honors NJ Public Officials and Community Leaders at Sold Out Community Development Conference
Experts weigh in on new fair housing policies; launch Community Scholars Program for community development emerging leaders


Municipal officials and community development leaders were honored for their commitment and achievements in New Jersey’s community development sector at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s (the Network) 2015 Community Development Conference and Membership Meeting Tuesday. The sold out event also featured a discussion on New Jersey’s evolving fair housing policies as well as resources for the sector such as the resurgence of a professional development program for emerging leaders and a foreclosure prevention program.

“This sold out event is a testament to the strength and significance of the community development sector,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network. “Community development in New Jersey is a $500 million dollar a year industry. This conferences aims to help build the capacity of the sector through invaluable technical assistance and training, advocacy, and networking.”

Award winners included Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders President Britnee N. Timberlake as the 2015 Community Development Champion, New Jersey Future as the Exceptional Community Partner, the Townships of Florence and Franklin as Outstanding Municipal Partners for New Development, and the Boroughs of Somerville and Roselle as Outstanding Municipal Partners for Neighborhood Revitalization.

The conference also featured workshops on issues affecting New Jersey’s community development sector, including new decisions impacting fair housing rules and also policies and programs to address foreclosure, homelessness, problem properties; and investment in the field.

“At a time when nearly 900,000 New Jersey households pay an unsustainably large portion of their income on housing, towns should be working with community developers to comply with the law and create the affordable homes our residents and our economy needs,” Kevin Walsh, executive director of Fair Share Housing Center who served as a featured panelist in the opening plenary session titled “Making Fair Housing Work in All of Our Communities.”

The Network also announced that it would be relaunching the Housing Scholars Program in effort to encourage and train individuals entering the community development field. In response to the needs of Network members to address the demand for talented leaders in the field, the Network has retooled the program which was eliminated in 2010 due to state budget cuts. As the newly reformed Community Scholars Program, the Network aims to attract the best and brightest students in planning, policy, architectural and social sciences to gain hands on experience in the field.

Former Housing Scholars alumn and current Network Board President John Restrepo said on the program, “The Housing Scholars Program was extremely important in providing a new stream of talent for the industry and we need it now more than ever. The lack of newcomers as a result of the programs closing years ago combined with the industry aging out, can jeopardize the future of our work and the communities that we serve. I’m happy to see it be revived.”

Another major announcement was the introduction of a foreclosure prevention program, the SUN Initiative, from Network member Boston Community Capitol. The program works to prevent the displacement of families by acquiring foreclosed properties before evictions occur and resell these homes to their existing occupants with mortgages they can afford. The SUN Initiative began in Massachusetts but is now expanding into New Jersey and other high foreclosure rate states.

Over 250 housing advocates, municipal officials, community developers, service providers, and funders participated in the event. Other special guests included Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Charles Richman and a keynote from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Deputy Assistant Secretary Marion McFadden.

About the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ
The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey is the statewide association of more than 250 community development corporations, individuals and other organizations that support the creation of affordable homes, economic opportunities, and strong communities. For more information on the Network, visit

For more information:  Nina Arce
(609) 393-3752 x1200
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