Affordable Housing Plan
New Jersey has a long and difficult history with meeting affordable housing mandates. It is fraught with racism and classism that has seen Wall Street banks “redlining” minority families and municipalities struggling to provide affordable housing.
“For too long, New Jersey shirked its responsibilities to provide cheap and affordable places to live, and now we face a monumental housing crisis,” said Wisniewski. “This is a result of Wall Street banks performing racist and classist practices, combined with our local municipalities ignoring the problem in hopes that someone else would solve the problem.”
The cornerstone of Wisniewski’s plan calls for the creation of statewide Community Land Trust, modeled off successful efforts in Vermont, Boston and Atlanta. The trust will allow homes to be sold to qualified buyers at a price they can afford by selling only the home to the consumer, while the state buys the land — thus significantly lowering home costs.
New Jersey leads the nation in home foreclosures with an estimated 49,000 homes currently on the market. It also has the highest number of vacant and abandoned homes in the foreclosure process in the nation. So-called “zombie homes” — abandoned and unwanted homes stuck in foreclosure limbo — would be prime targets for affordable housing options.
“While we cannot eliminate racism overnight, we must make the system work more equitably for all New Jerseyans,” said Wisniewski. “That is why I am proposing a new, affordable housing plan unlike anything this state has seen before.”
“Far too many working men and women struggle to get by on starvation wages and are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive. Families often have to decide what to do without — food, transportation, healthcare, school tuition, clothing, childcare or housing — in order to survive,” concluded Wisniewski. “New Jersey must address affordable housing, a key to human survival and dignity.”
WISNIEWSKI’S AFFORDABLE HOUSING PLAN:
In one of the most affluent states in the richest nation in the history of the world, “37 percent of households in the state could not afford a basic survival budget,” according to a recent ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) by the United Way of Northern New Jersey.
Far too many working men and women struggle to get by on starvation wages and are forced to work two and three jobs just to get by. Families often have to decide what to do without — food, transportation, healthcare, school tuition, clothing, childcare or housing — in order to survive.
The ALICE report stated the “federal poverty rate was $23,850 for a family of four… for that money, a New Jersey family could pay for housing and taxes and have $233 a month left for food, with nothing for childcare, healthcare, or transportation.”
John Wisniewski recognizes the precarious interconnectivity between earning a decent wage, providing food for our families, being able to get to and from work, affording college, securing adequate housing and access to affordable health care and raising a family with dignity. With so many New Jerseyans having little to no savings, one illness or one lost job can lead to financial ruin. We must do better.
That’s why he supports a $15 per hour minimum wage, transportation infrastructure upgrades that better connect mass transit to affordable housing, a single-payer healthcare system to lower costs and expand coverage, tuition-free college and university and affordable childcare.
And it’s why Wisniewski will make solving New Jersey’s affordable housing crisis a cabinet-level priority.
New Jersey’s struggle with affordable housing dates back 50 years when the black community began to organize against discrimination. The state’s affordable housing obligation comes from the landmark Mount Laurel cases that prohibited towns from discriminating against the poor through exclusionary zoning and requires all municipalities to provide their fair share of the region’s need for affordable housing.
The state’s burden resulting from the Mt. Laurel decision is best summarized by the mission of the 41 year old nonprofit Fair Share Housing Center: “end discriminatory or exclusionary housing patterns which have deprived the poor, particularly those presently living in inner cities… of the opportunity to reside in… safe, decent, and sanitary housing.”
Sadly, over the decades, New Jersey has not lived up to the mandate of the Mount Laurel case. Poor housing policies, racist redlining practices by greedy banks, criminal Wall Street behavior and a subprime mortgage scandal all led to where we are today — a unanimous State Supreme Court ruling ordering 300 municipalities to meet affordable housing mandates — an estimated 200,000 units statewide.
Meeting this mandate will be a challenge. New Jersey’s next Governor will have to use determination, focus and innovation to meet this mandate.
John Wisniewski is a lawyer with experience in land use law. As Governor, he will make affordable housing a cabinet level responsibility. Together they will work to correct and solve the underlying issues that have caused and contributed to New Jersey’s affordable housing crisis.
One of the first objectives of this office will be streamlining the very difficult land use approval process to make affordable housing cheaper to plan for, cheaper to develop and eventually cheaper to build.
Municipalities must stop utilizing Wall Street gimmicks to essentially “kick the can” down the road. That’s why in 2008, Wisniewski voted in favor of eliminating the further use of Regional Contribution Agreements, a Fair Housing Act loophole exploited by municipalities to shirk their affordable housing responsibilities by transferring them to other municipalities.
While many want to close their eyes to racism in banking, it is very much alive in New Jersey. Simply looking at the Northside neighborhood in Atlantic City or the recent Santander Bank scandal in Camden or the Hudson City Savings Bank lawsuit, one can clearly see the deplorable effects of housing discrimination and segregation.
New Jersey must make it very clear to banks that “redlining” — denying mortgages based on race — will no longer be tolerated. Wisniewski will demand tougher penalties for banks who practice redlining in New Jersey.
Another area of concern are so-called “reverse mortgages” that prey on elderly homeowners. Former Goldman Sachs executive and now Secretary of Treasury under President Trump, Steven Mnuchin, earned the nickname “foreclosure king” as the head of OneWest bank which specialized in reverse mortgages.
OneWest is currently under investigation by the federal Housing & Urban Development agency. As Governor, Wisniewski will order his Attorney General to launch a similar investigation into reverse mortgage scams in New Jersey to protect our elderly homeowners.
Finally, Wisniewski will explore an innovative solution — a Statewide Community Land Trust — designed to make affordable housing a reality for working class New Jerseyans. Modeled after successful programs in Vermont, Boston, and Atlanta, a statewide community land trust would lower the cost of buying a home to this simple premise — the state owns the land, the homeowner owns the home.
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy further defines the community land trust model as an “extremely attractive mechanism for maintaining and expanding the stock of affordable housing… High land costs are another obstacle to developing and securing affordable housing for lower-income families in some markets. One way to address this second issue is to purchase a house without the land, and a community land trust (CLT) is one mechanism that allows this arrangement…”
New Jersey leads the nation in home foreclosures with an estimated 49,000 homes currently on the market. The state also has the highest number of vacant and abandoned homes in the foreclosure process in the nation. So-called “zombie homes” — abandoned and unwanted homes stuck in foreclosure limbo — would be prime targets for affordable housing options.
The State Community Land Trust would be in position to start purchasing, on a limited basis, these properties and offering homes to New Jerseyans at affordable prices with the state holding the title to the land. This could start immediately to help get ahead of the current affordable housing crisis.
Additionally, the State Community Land Trust would be tasked with working directly with each municipality to find innovative solutions for affordable homes and rental units to meet the Supreme Court mandate.
When the Wall Street subprime lending scandal brought our economy to our knees in 2008, we bailed them out. It is time for New Jersey to step up and help our working men and women with one of the basic elements to survival and human dignity — a safe, affordable home.
As our next Governor, John Wisniewski will take New Jersey’s housing crisis seriously. New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest nation — all we lack is the leadership, focus and innovation to solve this crisis.