Legislators Join Housing Advocates in Rally to Protect NJ Affordable Housing Trust Fund
Proposed state budget raids funds intended to build homes for NJ’s most vulnerable residents


New Jersey legislators joined housing advocates and community developers last Friday for a rally to preserve the NJ Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). The proposed FY22 state budget diverts $57 million legally intended to create affordable homes for low- and moderate-income families into other programs, some for higher-income families. Legislative leaders, advocates and homeowners who are thriving in homes built with public investments discussed the impact of the AHTF and the need to address NJ’s pandemic-related housing crisis.

"Anyone who has followed the long and often painful narrative of the coronavirus in the last year knows that affordable housing in NJ is more critical than ever. So many residents have lost their jobs and sometimes have been forced to seek new housing options,” said Senator Nellie Pou (LD-35). “This money needs to be well spent in this hour of need for so many of our low and middle income communities especially as municipal governments and nonprofits struggle to return to full strength after the throws of the pandemic.”

“This is one Trust Fund that we can't afford to raid, we should be looking at ways to increase it," said Senator Vin Gopal (LD-11). "This is the opportunity now, we have all these federal funds, we should be looking at how we can create more opportunities for affordable housing in all communities."

"We have to continue to support affordable housing in New Jersey," said Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson (LD-15). "As legislators and elected officials, it's our responsibility to do whatever we can to create an equitable and just state for all residents, especially vulnerable families who need safe, affordable, and secure housing. We have to continue to fight to protect these dollars so that we can continue to build affordable housing in every community."

Community developers utilize resources like the AHTF to create affordable homes for the communities they serve. For Paterson Habitat for Humanity, the AHTF filled a financing gap in two of its developments. Using these funds, the organization provided thirteen homeownership opportunities for low-income families in one of the most economically distressed neighborhoods in the state. Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (LD-35), whose district includes the City of Paterson, noted the impact nonprofit developers like Paterson Habitat for Humanity have had in transforming neighborhoods by utilizing the AHTF.

“Seeing that structure go up that provides stable housing and transform a whole block, not just spot housing one by one, but a whole block so you don't have kids looking out their window seeing a dilapidated lot with tires and broken glass and vagrants outside their window. Where they can go outside and play safely and dream about what their future will be. That's what affordable housing does,” said Assemblywoman Sumter.

Camden mom Asha Anderson shared her life-changing experience becoming a homeowner with the help of Housing and Community Development Network of NJ (the Network) member, Parkside Community and Business in Partnership, a leading non-profit in the city of Camden. Anderson shared the list of financial hardships and housing insecurity that she experienced growing up and what it meant to break that cycle of instability for son. She said he would never have to experience multiple evictions, utility shutoffs, water coming through the ceiling and other dilapidated conditions like she did.

“If I had not encountered this program, statistically I could have fallen in that same circle of just working to pay the bills,” said Anderson. “I have benefited from the Trust Fund, purchasing this home gave me a sense of pride and made me want to be a better mom."

The AHTF was created to provide one way for communities to comply with the Fair Housing Act. The program’s parameters require that the funds be used to produce and/or rehabilitate homes that lower-income residents can afford in a state where an imbalanced housing market has created deeply segregated communities. Of the $57 million being diverted, $20 million would go to the NJ Housing Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) for its down payment assistance program which is open to families earning as much as $160,000 per year. One of the state’s leading racial justice organizations raised alarm about that diversion.

“Homeownership programs that serve middle income people should not be funded through funds taken from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund which is designed to create and maintain affordable housing for families at no more than 80 percent of the Area Median Income,” said Dr. Nichole Nelson, policy analyst, Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow, NJ Institute for Social Justice. “We support additional dedicated funds for homeownership programs and want to ensure funding be prioritize for programs working best to help black and other families of color become homeowners.”

"With this budget, it should not be a question of deciding between two most worthy undertakings,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (LD-27). “Instead, the Trust Fund must be fully funded while also funding the HMFA's workforce development program, down payment assistance program and the risk share pilot program. We have a housing crisis in this state and a multi-pronged approach to solving it is essential. Fully funding all of these programs moves us further along the road to making sure that everyone has a safe, affordable place to live.”

“I support every single thing that is in the governor's proposal in expansion of what's already being done for housing in NJ,” said Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake (LD-34). “What I do not want to see is a diversion of the Housing Trust Fund dollars in order to do those things. We need to make sure these dollars are going to be available for builders who are going to be building affordable housing, whether that is being done for homeownership, rent, or both.”

Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network noted that the federal government is, for the first time in generations, providing critical financial support for states to invest in meeting people’s needs. She said that more funding for housing may be on the way with the Biden Administration’s proposed Jobs Plan. “There is more than enough to make sure that HMFA gets what they need to do their programs and that community developers get what they need to make affordable homes a reality for everyone. All of the money in the Trust Fund needs to stay in the Trust Fund.”

To watch the event in its entirety, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMUgeZCdK_c.

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 270 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 www.hcdnnj.org.

For more information: Nina Rainiero
(609) 393-3752 x1200
Website: hcdnnj.org
Twitter site: twitter.com/hcdnnj
Facebook site: facebook.com/hcdnnj