TRENTON – A proposal by Senators Shirley K. Turner and Ronald L. Rice that would create a new joint committee in the Legislature to monitor the State’s efforts in providing affordable housing to its residents was approved by the full Senate today by a vote of 38-0.
“New Jersey’s widespread affordable housing shortage is now becoming an affordable housing crisis,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “A study released just this week said that half of all Jersey renters can’t afford a basic two-bedroom apartment. That means that we are not doing enough to help over half a million of the most vulnerable New Jerseyans have a clean, safe and affordable home.”
A study released in December by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey said that just over half of New Jersey’s more than one million renters don’t have enough family income to afford the average two bedroom apartment in the State. The report found the average rent to be $1,058 and that a family would need to earn over $43,000 for such a rent to make up the commonly accepted standard of 30% of a family’s income. Earning the minimum wage, it would require a family to work three full time jobs to make $43,000 per year.
“”New Jersey is one of the most expensive places to live, and it keeps getting worse,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “We need to make sure that those who work in New Jersey can afford to live here. Affordable housing is hard to find, but I am confident that the joint committee will be able to find ways to increase the number of affordable homes.”
The 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.
The Committee would have a total of ten members, with the Senate President appointing five and the Speaker of the Assembly appointing the other 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 now goes to the Assembly for their consideration.