The controversy over the state’s affordable housing funds is drawing a strong reaction from James Harris, President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP. Harris told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that Gov. Christie has developed a pattern of breaking the law when it comes to civil rights.
Harris takes the governor to task for his attempt to seize funds dedicated for affordable housing. An appellate court ruling held that the state has the right to seize unused affordable housing funds money, but outlined strict procedures the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) must follow.
According to Harris, if the administration fails to set up the court-mandated procedure, the NAACP will be forced to take the matter back to the court.
“We can’t let this go,” he said. Citing the Mount Laurel court decision as a major civil rights victory, Harris says that under Mount Laurel, “every municipality has a responsibility to provide low-income moderate housing so that there is a diversity of social economics.”
When it comes to Gov. Christie’s actions on civil rights, Harris doesn’t mince words.
“He’s breaking the law because he has a different idea of what government should be,” said Harris. “[Christie] wants to disengage government at the local level and let local people have control. In a state like New Jersey that’s so racially segregated, if you leave the choice to local communities, they won’t change. We’re the most racially segregated state in the United States of America … We have school systems based on housing patterns where students go to school without having much interaction with any of the students other than their own race. So the governor wants to placate and play to the governor’s side which is leave us alone and we’ll be fine. Well, civil rights says you can’t leave people alone because things will never change.”