by Colleen O'Dea, NJSpotlight.com
Gubernatorial vetoes have put municipalities at risk of losing $161 million earmarked for the creation of affordable housing throughout the state, although a judge has ruled New Jersey can’t take funds from at least one municipality and an appeals court will consider motions that could decide the fate of the money.
There is widespread confusion among municipal officials and anger by legislators who worked to give towns two more years in which to spend their money from the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Funds.
“A lot of these towns were depending on this opportunity to use this money to create affordable housing, rather than give it to the state general fund,” said Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-Union), sponsor of one of the bills Gov. Chris Christie vetoed last Friday
Certain development fees and other payments are by law banked on behalf of municipalities to build low- and moderate-income housing. Communities are required to earmark the money within four years or it reverts to the New Jersey Housing Trust Fund. The date by which the first fund deposits have to be committed is July 17.
In his original budget proposal, Christie sought to take as much as $200 million from the municipal funds to spend on a dozen purposes, including state rental assistance and homeless prevention programs and services for senior citizens, veterans, and the developmentally disabled. At least some of those had been funded by general state appropriations.
Lawmakers inserted language into the state budget that would have allowed municipalities to keep their money by passing a resolution stating the intention to spend the funds. And they approved Green’s bill, A2950, giving municipalities two more years to use the money, Christie vetoed both the bill and the language.
That would affect $161.3 million of $252.2 million total in the municipal funds as of June 5, according to figures from the state Department of Community Affairs. In all, $589 million in fees have been collected and $336.9 million of that spent on housing. Municipal funds would retain about $89 million not yet subject to state seizure.