Guest Column

Community development corporations favor inclusionary zoning

An affordable housing complex owned by New Community Corp., one of the community development corporations in favor of an inclusionary zoning ordinance.

We are writing in response to and, respectfully, in disagreement with, the recent guest column by Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins regarding a proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance for Newark. 

We represent some of the core neighborhood-based community development corporations in Newark, all of whom have existed for 45 plus years and longer. We work daily on the front lines trying to address Newark resident needs from workforce training and readiness, health care, education and child care and housing. 

Some of us have been developers of housing for low and moderate income residents and all of us have been consistent advocates for the need for more housing for low, moderate, workforce  and yes, even market-rate housing also because we know we must grow our city for it to move forward for everyone. 

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But progress must be guided by principles of equity and justice in development for Newark. It is critical to ensure that the surge in development and investment benefits current residents of all incomes. But this is not a zero-sum proposition. We also are cognizant of the need to welcome new residents to Newark through thoughtful, comprehensive and coherent planning and policies. 

But the Councilwoman seems to suggest that advocating for an inclusionary zoning ordiinance is a sign that one thinks market-rate development is “a bad thing.” To the contrary, we think market-rate housing development is good and should result in fair-share benefits for current residents which is the point of the inclusionary zoning ordinance.

This is why for the past year we have worked with the Baraka Administration in crafting an inclusionary zoning ordiance that followed best practices as established by inclusionary zoning ordinances developed over the past 40 years throughout the country in over 500 municipalities.

While we appreciate the councilwoman’s concerns and would be more than willing to discuss with her to discuss in detail we admit we were disappointed at her stated opposition. Unfortunately her opposition seems based on a wide-ranging catalog of issues and concerns, not all of them which are relevant to the inclusionary zoning ordinance and many of them simply are not accurate based upon the most current research and results. 

At the core of her position is one put forth frequently, mainly by developers, that inclusionary zoning will “derail many residential housing projects”, it will “disincentivize developers from building in the city,” it will “impede our progress.” 

These are in fact issues and concerns raised since inclusionary zoning began in the ‘70’s. But the research over the years overwhelmingly shows that inclusionary zoning does NOT stifle or stop development. The councilwoman’s reference to countless other failed examples of inclusionary zoning across the country simply is not accurate. We conducted extensive research from a wide variety of academic institutions and policy centers which show the benefits of inclusionary zoning across the country.

Closer to home, Alan Mallach, New Jersey’s own nationally recognized expert on affordable housing and economic development, notes that inclusionary housing programs have created what we would consider to be a significant amount of housing – although nothing meeting the need. 

A California survey estimated that roughly 30,000 affordable units were created in that state between 1999 and 2007. Since programs have been continuing in California since the ‘70’s, the total may be double that. 

Another 15,000-20,000 have been built in N.J. since the Mt. Laurel decision, and another 15,000 or more in the DC area. A reasonable estimate for total inclusionary zoning production nationally would probably be in the area of 100,000 affordable units.

The inclusionary zone ordinance is not a tax and does not apply to all projects. The original inclusionary zoning ordiance only applied to projects over 30 units and which required a tax abatement, variance, density increase, etc. from the city.  

It seems only fair that if  a developer needs something from Newark residents through the City then they should give something reasonable in return such as access to affordable housing for residents. And the proposed inclusionary zoning ordinance will embed in law the principles and policies for this fair share equation. 

And while we appreciate the decision by several recent developers to voluntarily include affordable units in their projects we also know that through the inclusionary zoning ordinance we can establish legally a level of certainty and consistency in the development process which will benefit all moving forward. And it should be noted that inclusionary zoning ordinances historically have been dynamic, they can be amended and adjusted as the need arises.

We fully understand that the inclusionary zoning ordinance is not “unique.” But through the inclusionary zoning ordinance and other complementary policies, Newark is aiming to avoid the failures of places like Hoboken, Jersey City, Harlem, etc. where far too many long-term residents were either displaced or priced out of their own home city.

And finally we fully realize that the inclusionary zoning ordinance is not some cure all for the need for increasing housing opportunity for low, moderate, workforce and market-rate units.  It is but one of the important  tools  in a broad strategy needed to improve the quality of life in Newark in terms of housing.  

And it should be seen in concert with our many other issue areas such as employment and the Newark 2020 initiative; public education related to local control and community schools; higher education related to things like the Rutgers Newark City of Learning Collaborative. 

We thank the Mayor for welcoming our help in developing the IZO initiative. We appreciate the stand  of the Council members who supported the IZO.  And  we are more than willing to help address the concerns of Council members who still have questions.

As noted in the beginning, we, the long-standing community development corporations of Newark for decades have been working with and for residents citywide, holding together and stabilizing our neighborhoods and thus sustaining our city through very difficult times. This work has always been geared toward establishing our city as a place where equity and fairness are core principles in how we govern, serve, live, learn and work to move Newark forward.

Richard Cammarieri, chair of the Newark Community Development Network, Joe Della Fave, executive director of the Ironbound Community Corporation, Ray Ocasio is executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro, Rhonda Lewis is executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corp. of Greater Newark, Deborah Smith-Gregory is president of the NAACP – Newark Branch, Rich Rohrman is CEO of New Community Corporation, Vivina Cox Fraser, president and CEO of the Urban League of Essex County and Veronica Manning is executive director of Unified Vailsburg Services Organization.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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