PATERSON, NJ- TAPinto Paterson earlier reported on the response of local community leaders and activists on a proposal by Governor Phil Murphy to divert $46 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) which they wrote in a letter signed by representatives of over 100 groups statewide is “legally dedicated to the creation of affordable homes for lower income residents.”

Following is the testimony Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, who also serves as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), delivered earlier this month to the Assembly Budget Committee and Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on the matter:

 

“With the election of Governor Murphy, there was widespread anticipation that funding for construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing would return to pre-Christie era levels. It was certainly a priority for the incoming administration. However, the magnitude of the budget mess that has been left behind by the previous administration was not initially known. We inherited a fiscal disaster that must be repaired. It could not happen in this one budget cycle and we are devoted to charting a new path forward. We fully recognize that after eight years of indifference, the demand for affordable housing has intensified. The commitment that Governor Murphy has made to support the development and preservation of affordable housing is absolute. However, when confronted with impossible choices, only compromise is allowing for progress toward competing goals. This is an issue that I have championed over the course of my career and one that the administration will not allow to fall by the wayside.

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We are fortunate that we will see an increase in federal funding of $1.6 million in the HOME Program and $2.1 million in the Housing Trust Fund. We will spend over $300 million in affordable housing programs this fiscal year, including Section 8 vouchers and the State Rental Assistance Program. We have recently received 52 veterans supportive housing vouchers to support homeless veterans and we will have another $1 million to spend on vouchers for people with opioid addiction, and we hope to receive $10 million for our Keeping Families Together initiative with the Department of Children and Families. Through the HMFA, we are proposing to tie $18 million to 4% tax credits to create 180 special needs units and, excitingly, Thursday the HMFA Board will vote to approve a new first time homebuyer loan program that will provide 1,000 first time borrowers in the state with $10,000 in down payment assistance. We think that is going to go a long way to create stabilized neighborhoods throughout the state.

Is this the robust plan that I had hoped to unveil today? Not necessarily. But I believe that like the HMFA’s new down payment initiative, this first budget is a down payment and a promise of a higher economic forecast that will enable us to support the new affordable development that is so badly needed around the state.”