At last night’s Council meeting, I spoke in favor of a bipartisan bill in the New Jersey legislature to freeze all affordable housing litigation through the end of 2017, and urged the mayor and Council to adopt a resolution in support of the bill.
This litigation is costing taxpayers in 300 New Jersey towns – including Chester Township – thousands of dollars every year, with no end in sight. It’s why our own Assemblyman Anthony Bucco and my friend Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi are rallying support for their bill (A4666) to relieve taxpayers of this continued expense.
I’m grateful to the mayor and Council for the opportunity to speak, for drafting a resolution of support right then and there, and for voting unanimously to endorse the litigation freeze.
Citizen activism really does work.
The development of new affordable housing in Chester Township remains an important issue with implications for our town’s infrastructure, environment, and quality of life. It’s also a reminder of our state’s affordability crisis, and the fact that too many people want to leave New Jersey entirely.
While having a range of home prices in a community is certainly ideal, Trenton’s housing mandate – otherwise known as the Council on Affordable Housing – is the wrong approach, especially for Chester Township.
Consider the facts. The Fair Share Housing Center, which is the primary litigant on the issue, argues that Chester Township should have 320 units of new construction, plus another 59 rehabilitated or existing units. Add to that the match of market value units, and Chester Township could be exposed to the construction of nearly 1,600 new homes and a population spike from 8,000 to 12,000 people.
This forced development would have severe impacts on Chester Township’s infrastructure – including our roads, schools, electric grid, and septic systems – as well as our natural environment. Nearly half of the land in Chester Township is preserved open space and the remainder is nearly built out, making our town ill-equipped to handle such development.
This all points to the folly of central planning. The reality is that top-down housing plans don’t work, whether it’s in China where whole cities are empty or in New Jersey where there is zero population growth. And that is to say nothing of the dearth in employment opportunities that these new residents would require – a disservice to everyone involved.
I’m going to continue speaking out against Trenton's housing mandate, and also remind people that our community is strong because it is inclusive. We are CEOs and teachers, pilots and firefighters. Hard work and cooperation – not income or wealth – make us who we are. In that spirit, we can work together to preserve Chester Township’s rural character and make smart local decisions to secure a strong future.