What’s the future of affordable housing in Jersey City?

Advocates: 'Affordable homes are not a chit to be traded away as part of backroom deals'

Back to the drawing board?
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Back to the drawing board?

Jersey City fair housing advocates are celebrating, and it remains to be seen how the city will respond, now that a Hudson County judge has overturned Jersey City’s controversial affordable housing ordinance following a lawsuit to block the measure.

Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula ruled on August 12 that Jersey City officials violated New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law when adopting the ordinance without referring it to the city’s Planning Board for review.

The lawsuit was filed by the Fair Share Housing Center last December after the Jersey City council adopted an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance in October that required certain new developments to include 20 percent affordable housing.

But the ordinance also had loopholes that allowed developers to ignore the mandate, or to provide community givebacks, or to build offsite affordable housing, and allowing the council to entirely waive the ordinance’s provisions.

Developers could also pay the city between $25,000 and $100,000 per mandated affordable housing unit to the city’s affordable housing trust fund instead of building the units.

Not onboard

Residents and community groups opposed the ordinance. In October, council members Rolando Lavarro and James Solomon voted against the ordinance.

“At this point, we will review our options and meet with all stakeholders, including the group that filed the lawsuit, to discuss next steps,” said Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione in a statement.

“We are pleased that Judge Turula granted Fair Share Housing Center’s summary judgment motion invalidating Jersey City’s fake affordable housing ordinance,” said FSHC Executive Director Adam Gordon in a statement.

“The decision should send a firm message to the city’s elected officials and other municipalities across New Jersey that affordable homes are not a chit to be traded away as part of backroom deals that do not benefit working families.”

“I am very happy with the court’s ruling,” said Lavarro in a statement. “While we’ve lost valuable time and countless affordable units due to these political machinations, on the bright side and most importantly, this ruling opens the door for the city to provide meaningful affordable housing opportunities.”

Said Wallace-Scalcione, “Our single goal is to create more affordable housing in Jersey City, and we were confident that this ordinance would have achieved that.”

“To us,” she continued, “it made little sense to pass a feel good ordinance that sounded good on paper but in reality didn’t result in any affordable housing increases, as was the case when a similar feel good ordinance was passed in Newark.”

Lavarro recently rescinded a resolution on his affordable housing ordinance after speaking with Mayor Steve Fulop and Council President Joyce Watterman, saying that he will be having discussions about a “mutually beneficial outcome” on the inclusionary zoning ordinance.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.