Christie is wrong to tap housing funds

Gov. Christie holds a town hall meeting in Haddonfield on June 12, 2012, in the gym at Central Middle School. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
Gov. Christie holds a town hall meeting in Haddonfield on June 12, 2012, in the gym at Central Middle School. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
Posted: July 11, 2012

Gov. Christie should be ashamed of his despicable effort to take millions of dollars from a fund that New Jersey towns set aside to help pay for more affordable housing in one of the nation's most expensive states to have a home.

Christie wants to take as much as $161 million from the New Jersey Housing Trust Fund to help him balance the $31.7 billion state budget he signed last month.

Given his poor record, Christie's claim that the funds would be used for other housing programs seems unlikely. Housing advocates are right to challenge the maneuver in court.

In question are funds collected from developers to help communities meet their legal obligation to provide low- and moderate-income housing. The requirement is the result of a series of state Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1975, which stemmed from the Mount Laurel housing discrimination case.

Too many affluent towns have ignored the rule, letting the money collected from developers pile up while they maintain the exclusivity of their enclaves. State law gave New Jersey's towns four years to say how they would spend the funds or the money would revert to the affordable-housing trust fund. The first deadlines will be reached on July 17.

The Legislature passed a bill with bipartisan support that would have given towns two more years to use the money, but Christie last week vetoed the measure. He also rejected a bill that would have allowed towns to use any unused funds to transform foreclosed homes into affordable housing.

That's outrageous, especially since Christie bears some responsibility for the inaction by municipalities. The state has been slow to approve some affordable- housing spending plans, and Christie's misguided legal battle to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing further complicated already unclear regulations.

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