TRENTON – A proposal by Senator Shirley K. Turner to create a new joint committee in the Legislature to monitor the State’s efforts in providing affordable housing to its residents was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
“New Jersey has a widespread affordable housing shortage that in some communities is approaching crisis proportions,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and a leading Senate advocate for more affordable housing. “Ask New Jersey families trying to get by on low-wage jobs or seniors living on fixed incomes about their struggles to pay the rent each month and it becomes obvious that we need to do more about the cost of living in New Jersey.”
Senator Turner’s bill, S-1263, would establish the “Joint Committee on Affordable Housing” to study affordable housing opportunities within the State either via new construction or existing housing. The committee would be directed to conduct a continuing study of the availability and provision of housing affordable to low and moderate income households, examine the administration and financing of affordable housing programs, and address other affordable housing issues as they arise.
The bill would also direct the Committee to make recommendations for legislative action, including amendments to the “Fair Housing Act,” “State Planning Act,” or any other statute it deems desirable for providing affordable housing opportunities for residents of New Jersey.
“This is a problem that we can’t just throw money at, especially given our State’s current financial situation and the Bush Administration’s continued lack of support for federal programs aimed at providing housing assistance,” explained Senator Turner. “It’s time that we began to thoroughly examine the state’s affordable housing situation and lay the foundation upon which we could build a substantial amount of affordable housing to meet the State’s growing needs.”
The Committee would have a total of ten members, with the Senate President appointing five and the Speaker of the Assembly appointing the remaining five. At least two members from both the Senate Urban and Community Affairs Committee and the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee would be on the Joint Committee and no more than three members from each House could be of the same party.
Senator Turner pointed out that the Committee is modeled after the Joint Committee on the Public Schools. “I hope that this new Committee will raise the importance of affordable housing in the eyes of my colleagues and bring us together to tackle this problem,” she explained.
The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 5-0 and now goes to the full Senate for its approval.