The Christie administration has asked New Jersey municipalities to turn over unused affordable housing funds to a state trust fund through letters that are being sent out. East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, who also serves as the chair of the Housing Policy Committee at the League of Municipalities, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she believes the funds earmarked for affordable housing should remain with municipalities.
Mironov said East Windsor is one of the towns to receive a letter asking that unspent money be turned over to the state. She called the wording “quite vague” and said the letter doesn’t explain a process to return the money or what rights municipalities have to appeal or further present their case.
The letter indicates that East Windsor has about $2 million in unused money after having spent more than $8 million, according to Mironov. He said municipalities haven’t spent the money because “there have been no clear guidelines with respect to affordable housing regarding what towns’ obligations are, how they are to meet those obligations. As everybody knows the affordable housing program has been mired in controversy. It’s been in a challenge in the courts for almost the entire period of time. So towns don’t know what their actual obligation is and the compliance tools for that obligation also are very unclear at this point.”
Mironov said she believes the unspent money should remain with municipalities for the purpose of affordable housing so the burden for the cost of that housing won’t fall on taxpayers. “At some point, there are going to be clear guidelines so whether it’s through the court or through the administration as to what a municipality’s obligation is and how to meet the obligation. And if the state were to be allowed to take the monies back from towns, those are the resources that the towns are to be using to meet the obligation,” she said. “If those monies are not available, it’s going to be the local property taxpayers once again that are going to get hit with a burden to have to meet those affordable housing obligations that are imposed by the state.”
Since the letters just went out, Mironov said it’s early to gauge the response from municipalities. “There is litigation that is ongoing right now through various organizations in which League is participating to basically stand up for towns and to indicate that this process is really not an appropriate process and that towns require clear guidelines, due process and the opportunity to expend the money for the purpose for which they were provided, which is to satisfy housing obligations in our communities that are imposed by the state of New Jersey.”