Gubernatorial Candidates Endorse ‘Building a Thriving NJ’ in Union County
Community leaders host candidates forum on housing affordability

Candidates for local and state offices engaged with Union County residents and community leaders on solutions for making NJ more affordable. Pictured in the front row from left to right: Green Party Candidate for Governor Seth Kaper-Dale; Network CEO Staci Berger; Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Senator Raymond J. Lesniak and Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski; and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20), representing Ambassador Phil Murphy’s campaign.

Members of Union County’s faith-based community and community development groups hosted a forum on Tuesday for elected officials and future leaders. “The Union County Candidates and Community Leader’s Forum to Build a Thriving New Jersey” provided local residents the opportunity to hear from candidates running for governor and other offices about their plans to make New Jersey a more affordable place to live.

“Our elected officials and leaders are responsible for building a better NJ,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. “Voters from all walks of life care deeply about putting our economy back on track and making sure we can all afford to call New Jersey home. Our leaders need to address our housing crisis, including the foreclosure crisis and the high cost of renting an apartment. To that end, we are asking all of them to endorse our platform to ‘Build a Thriving NJ.’”

Participating in the forum were New Jersey Democratic Gubernatorial candidates Senator Raymond J. Lesniak (D-20) and Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-19), Green Party Gubernatorial candidate Seth Kaper-Dale, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-20) representing Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Ambassador Phil Murphy, and Legislative District 20 Senate Democratic candidate Joseph Cryan. All candidates for governor were invited to attend or send a representative. Kaper-Dale, Lesniak, and Wisniewski each endorsed the Build a Thriving NJ platform during the event. Also announcing his endorsement but unable to participate in Tuesday’s event was Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee Chair Jerry Green (D-22).

“Build a Thriving New Jersey” calls on the next leaders of the state to invest $600 million annually into homes residents can afford. The Network launched the “Build a Thriving NJ” campaign to boost the state’s economy through a plan that creates affordable home opportunities and jobs for NJ residents. The State previously invested in ten community development programs but over the last decade cut much of the funding which has been diverted or abandoned. Several of the programs housing advocates say will help “Build a Thriving NJ” include supporting 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.

"We appeal to all lawmakers and community planners to create neighborhoods and housing plans that are inclusive of all socioeconomic groups,” said Geleen Donovan, executive director, Family Promise Union County. “This presents a vital plan that includes essential housing-related funds that were diverted to other state budget categories in the past." 

Tuesday’s forum was the result of a housing summit held in March for local residents to learn more about “Build a Thriving NJ” and raise personal concerns with the status of home affordability in the state. Housing advocates and community leaders say the future is in the hands of the next governor and legislative leaders.

"At a time when the federal government is reneging on its responsibility to ensure that all have a home they can afford, an essential to life itself, ‘Build A Thriving NJ’ is an opportunity for the state to step up by making investments that create affordable home opportunities for all New Jersey residents," Linda M. Flores-Tober, executive director, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless.  

 “New Jersey is at its best when our communities are strong,” said Debbie-Ann Anderson, executive director, HomeFirst. “We take pride in our diversity and look after our families, friends and neighbors. We want everyone who calls NJ home to be able to afford to live here because that’s how we are going to strengthen our economy and in turn, our communities.”

“This event provided an excellent opportunity for Union County residents to make the case that a state investment is needed to ensure that all NJ residents can afford a place to call home,” said Richard Brown, chief executive officer of Monarch Housing Associates. “The Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council continues to help us build momentum for the ‘Build a Thriving New Jersey’ effort after a successful event in March and Homeless Sabbath in December. Because funding is critical at both the state and federal levels, Monarch Housing advocates and their partners will be in Washington, D.C. in July for a congressional reception to fight the cuts.”

The forum was held at the Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Springfield and sponsored by Community Access Unlimited, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Family Promise Union County, Gateway Family YMCA, HomeFirst, Housing & Community Development Network of NJ, Iris House, Monarch Housing Associates, and the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council.

To learn more about “Build a Thriving New Jersey,” visit