Dear Editor:

I’m Rich Fortunato and I am running for State Assembly in District 22, which includes Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Clark. One reason why I am running for the Assembly is because of the way affordable housing requirements are being imposed on our towns.

Since the New Jersey Supreme Court decided in 1974 that every town has a constitutional obligation to provide a reasonable opportunity for affordable housing, the Legislature (and the Governor) has failed to adequately address the issue. 

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As a result, towns now have to deal with affordable housing in the context of lawsuits brought by a ‘fair share’ housing public interest group and threatened lawsuits from well funded and well organized real estate developers motivated by the vast profits they will make from building thousands of multi-family units in areas where they previously were not permitted (with only a small portion of them being ‘affordable’). 

The State Legislature could, if the majority party (Democrat) wanted to, take action to provide reasonable affordable housing opportunities in a way that would not result in the disruption of our communities.   

The current affordable housing crisis is addressing the affordable housing “need” for the next 8 years.  Eight years from now, it will again be open season for developers to use the “affordable housing” mantra to convince the courts to let them override zoning rules and build even more units (while only few will be “affordable”).

If you don’t agree with the way the State is dealing with affordable housing, you need to vote for a Republican on November 7. 

Think about this – if a town has to allow for hundreds of affordable units, why is it that the only practical way to do that is to allow developers to build thousands of units? Why doesn’t the town itself build only the affordable units? Why isn’t the State doing more to make that a workable option?  

The Legislature should make it easier for towns to set up housing authorities to build these units themselves and, since finding the money to do so is a big issue, the State should provide meaningful funding to build the housing.  If providing affordable housing really was the only goal, helping towns build only the affordable units would be a good thing to do since doing that certainly would lessen the adverse effects on communities.  

There is no focus by the Democrats in the Assembly on promoting other workable options because they like what the courts are doing.  They think the current system benefits them politically.  It certainly rewards their campaign contributors.

Jerry Green, who has been in the Assembly representing us for literally decades, is the chairman of the Assembly housing committee. He has had years to do something to solve this but has not. He and our other Assemblyman, Jim Kennedy, another Democrat, need to be voted out of office. Otherwise nothing will change, and eight years from now whatever open space the courts think we have (maybe parks, golf courses or churches with ‘too much’ property) will again be targeted by developers and our towns will suffer once again.

Please consider voting for me on November 7. 

Rich Fortunato
Scotch Plains