Over 100 Housing Advocates Urge Legislators to “HouseNJ”
Community leaders meet NJ lawmakers, secure commitments for investments and policies to support housing affordability and security


This week, housing advocates and community leaders are meeting with members of the New Jersey Legislature to secure commitment for the HouseNJ campaign. Launched by the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ (the Network), the initiative seeks $975 million in state investments from American Rescue Plan and general revenue into critical housing programs, as well as legislative proposals that expand housing security and stability.

The HouseNJ campaign, which began earlier this year and has been endorsed by local elected officials across the state, aims to close NJ’s racial wealth gap and expand access to affordable homes. Specifically, legislation discussed include: streamlining the application process for affordable homes and assistance, promoting community-based wealth, expanding transparency and liability for LLCs buying property, eliminating credit score standards, and racial discrimination in home appraisals.

“If our recovery does not build housing affordability and security for the long-haul, our recovery is not enough. Our elected officials must make sure that every single person has a safe and affordable place to live,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network. “We put billionaires in spaceships in this country and yet, we also have people living under bridges, on couches, and in cars, tents and on the street. We have enough money to do better than this. We need our elected leaders to step up to ensure that every single resident has a safe and affordable place they can call home.”

The weeklong advocacy event kicked off with a luncheon in Trenton on Monday. Legislators joined advocates to champion HouseNJ priorities and encouraged them to engage their colleagues in the Legislature in order to secure critical housing investments.

“If you don’t make your voices heard to your representatives, they’re not going to pay attention,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “They need to hear from you to know that you are paying attention. The strides that we’ve made were directly related to advocacy that resulted in the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the fair housing laws.”

“It's very important that my children have somewhere affordable to go in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Reginald Atkins (D-Union). “It's important that my young ones going off to college come back because we have affordable housing and we've made the effort to close that gap."

According to a report from the NJ Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ), $300,000 is the amount of the state’s wealth gap. Black Homeownership Matters: Expanding Access to Housing Wealth for Black New Jerseyans found that the median household wealth of white families in New Jersey is $322,500, compared with just $17,700 and $26,100 for Black and Latina/o families, respectively. In one of the highest income and most expensive states in the country, one in five households have incomes of less than $35,000.

“How do we explain our state’s immense wealth divide which is almost double the national racial wealth gap? We have to look at the foundation of the American dream, the home,” said Andrea McChristian, Esq., Law & Policy Director, NJISJ. “Homeownership is the primary way that most families build wealth. In NJ, the overall homeownership rate is 76 percent for White families compared to 36 percent for black families.”

Targeting racial home devaluation practices, housing advocates are urging state lawmakers to support a bill making it easier for real estate appraisers to lose their license if caught scaling down property evaluations based on race, creed or national origin.

Bill sponsor Senator Nellie Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen) highlighted the need for legislation, saying, “Sadly, discriminatory practices in home appraisals are alive and well in New Jersey,”

In addition to closing the racial wealth gap and securing state level housing investments, the HouseNJ campaign also calls on federal lawmakers to include historic housing investments in any final reconciliation bill page.

“It's really important for advocates to get their priorities in front of those in a position to institute change,” said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12). “I will continue to fight alongside you until every American has access to safe, affordable housing.”

A resolution urging Congress to adopt these investments currently is under consideration in the NJ Legislature. Several municipalities, including Asbury Park, Highland Park, Metuchen, Newark and Red Bank, have passed local versions of the resolution.

"Too many people across the state and across the country live with the stress of housing instability. This Federal legislation would make critical investments in housing stability, affordability and security at a time when it is needed more than ever," said Metuchen Council President Jason Delia.

“We can’t address our significant statewide and local housing shortages by going it alone, town by town,” said Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler. “My colleagues and I are proud to support the HouseNJ resolution because our towns need essential, federal-level investments in public housing, rent relief, and affordable home creation to make towns like Highland Park more accessible to more people.”

“The HouseNJ resolution drives us in the right direction to alleviate the shortage of housing, and more specifically of affordable housing, in our communities,” said Asbury Park Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn. “With the negative economic impact brought on by the Covid-19 health crisis, the need for federal support to help preserve the affordability of housing in New Jersey has never been so great.”

Delivering remarks at the Legislative Week Luncheon were National Low Income Housing Coalition Senior Organizer for Housing Advocacy Lindsay Duvall, Garden State Equality Public Policy Fellow Aleyah Lopez, who highlighted the dire needs of LGTBQ residents, and Assemblywoman Verlina Reynold-Jackson (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).

“We have an affordability issue here in the state of New Jersey and we want to make sure you can live anywhere in this state,” said Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson. “It should not be dictated by the amount of money you make, it should be dictated by where you want to go.”

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