A decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to rescind an Obama Administration rule will not impact South Orange’s settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center to build more affordable housing units in this New Jersey suburb, says South Orange Village President Sheena Collum.
“We have a great roadmap in place for the planning and development of affordable housing units over the next five years which I’m so excited about,” wrote Collum in an email asking if the Trump move would have a local impact.
Earlier this year, South Orange ended a multi-year process to settle a suit brought by the Fair Share Housing Center by agreeing to meet its new fair housing obligation of building 192 units by 2025 (the previous obligation was 63 units). South Orange will apply a combination of existing affordable housing units as well as units in the development pipeline to meet this obligation.
“Our next three major redevelopment projects are either 20% inclusionary or 100% affordable and more will come online after that. We have full control over zoning and have many tools available for our use under New Jersey Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.”
Collum added, “The President’s comments that suggest inclusionary and mixed-income housing markets bring down other home values are nothing more than racist and empty scare tactics meant to ignite his base. The South Orange Board of Trustees is unwavering in our commitment to affordable housing because it’s the right thing to do and enriches our Village for everyone.”
Last Wednesday, July 29, Trump tweeted, “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood… …Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!”
According to Reuters, “The rule, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate, was established under Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015. It would have required communities that receive grants and housing aid to assess racial segregation in housing and offer plans to correct it.”
Collum has long held that the key to overcoming segregation and providing affordable housing in South Orange township and other New Jersey suburbs is to promote multi-family housing developments that include affordable housing units or contribute to an affordable housing fund.
In spring 2019, in response to a SOMA Action candidate questionnaire, Collum wrote the following response regarding a question about South Orange’s affordable housing obligation:
“Over the past two years, I have worked to redo our entire affordable housing compliance agreement undoing years of unrealistic zoning that would have never actually constructed affordable units. What has occurred in South Orange is a disgrace and has contributed to the segregation that exists throughout New Jersey. I have introduced ordinances that will require 1 in every 5 units developed to be for moderate and lower-income families. I also quadrupled payments for developers to construct units ‘off-site’ with a required 10% on-site in any new development. I am also proud to share that South Orange has not used a Vacant Land Adjustment in negotiating its fair share obligation. We were given a number and accepted it. I have laid out a path for this governing body and future governing bodies to actually hit numbers. This is an area during my term I am most proud of. Affordable housing advocates throughout the state frequently request my presence on panels and speaking engagement to take about our collective responsibilities as towns – particularly affluent towns – to make New Jersey more equitable. Housing is where it all starts. It will dictate access to transportation, quality government services, job opportunities, education, etc. Housing segregation and exclusionary zoning has created an absolute mess in this state and I will continue doing my role at the local, county, state and national levels as an advocate for affordable housing.”
In addition, the slate of Bob Zuckerman, Donna Coallier and Summer Jones (all of whom were elected to the Board of Trustees) wrote:
“A major impediment to affordable housing is getting residents to agree on how to support redevelopment with inclusionary housing. We fully support the Master Plan process as one way to gain that needed consensus. As we understand it, South Orange is one of only a few towns that have accepted and embraced the number of affordable housing units stipulated by the Fair Share Housing Committee. We support the approach that has been spelled out to get a minimum of 100 units built by 2025 for moderate and low-income households.”