2017 Gubernatorial Candidates Address Housing Issues at Sold Out Community Development Conference
NJ association honors community leaders and municipal officials; introduces campaign for investment in homes and neighborhoods


Two announced candidates for New Jersey’s 2017 gubernatorial race participated in a discussion on housing and community development issues at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s (the Network) Annual Community Development Conference and Membership Meeting on October 21. The declared Republican candidate, Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli (LD-16) and the declared Democratic candidate, former U.S. Ambassador Phil Murphy, responded to the Network’s campaign to increase investments in community development and housing to tackle the state’s affordability issues.

“Previous administrations have chipped away at funding essential to maintaining affordability in NJ, leaving us with a slumping economy,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network. “Our state needs leaders who are going to create opportunities so we can all call NJ home. If we can’t afford to live here, we can’t get our economy back on track.”

The campaign, Build a Thriving New Jersey, urges the next leaders of the state to commit to investing $600 million annually to create affordable homes. Housing advocates point to ten specific State investments/programs that they say will help “build a thriving NJ,” some of which include the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the State Rental Assistance Program, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program (NRTC), Lead Poisoning Prevention and Weatherization, and Homeless Service Programs. The vast majority of the state programs have experienced significant decreases in funding over the last decade.

“These are all existing programs where investment has either been diverted or abandoned,” said Berger. “Seeing where our economy is today and how much the need for affordable homes has grown, reversing the trend by returning the investments is crucial to having stronger communities and an economic renewal.”

The Network also provided a status update of the impact the NRTC has made on the state’s economy since its inception 2002. In a survey of NRTC participants, the Network found that to date, more than $44 million in NRTC dollars have been invested into communities by 20 corporations. The Network found that for every dollar in NRTC investment, $6.30 in additional resources has been leveraged. Of the money leveraged, approximately 60 percent was from the private sector, while the remaining 40 percent was from public sector and foundations.

“Investments into programs like NRTC have a proven track record of enhancing communities, creating opportunities and improving the local economy,” said Blair Schleicher Bravo, Network board chair and chief executive officer of the Morris County Habitat for Humanity affiliate. “The State making a $600 million annual investment will recharge the economy by making sure businesses can locate in places where workers can afford to live.”

At the event, the Network also honored municipal officials and community development leaders for their commitment and achievements in New Jersey’s community development sector. Award winners included City of Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka as the 2016 Community Development Champion, the Supportive Housing Association of NJ as the Exceptional Community Partner, the City of Union City and Springfield Township as Outstanding Municipal Partners for New Development, the Townships of Egg Harbor and Berkeley as Outstanding Municipal Partners for Redevelopment and the City of Bridgeton as Outstanding Municipal Partner for Healthy Homes and Communities. Community based organizations, Ironbound Community Corporation and New Brunswick Tomorrow were presented with the Advocacy and Organizing Award.

"Access to affordable homes is a critical need for low income individuals with living with disabilities; it’s imperative that people with special needs can reside near family and friends and contribute to their communities,” said Gail Levinson, executive director of the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey. “Without this, emergency rooms and institutional settings are overused and misused at great cost to the state. Efforts by the Network to ensure greater and more consistent investment in housing in all communities is something we applaud and support as fellow advocates."

Over 300 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, Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Newark Field Office Director Maria Maio-Messano.

To learn more about Build a Thriving New Jersey, visit www.hcdnnj.org/BuildaThrivingNJ.

For more information: Nina Arce
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Website: hcdnnj.org
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