11 July 2011

Housing report

A new report from John Hasse at Rowan is being reported on in different ways that show how hard it is to decipher the media message on an academic report.

The Star-Ledger reports that it finds that affordable housing rules in New Jersey are keeping sprawl from being worse than it already is: "It found that although it’s not a catch-all, court-ordered affordable housing efforts were effective in some areas, and sprawl would be significantly worse without them."  It takes an interesting look at how towns appear to be over-zoning their land for commercial and industrial, which doesn't add a burden to local schools, but would create traffic nightmares if developers built these lands to their legal maximum density.  But, phillyBurbs.com quotes the report about the flip side of the problem:
“By consuming practically all remaining residentially zoned land, large lot subdivisions are locking in a residential land-use pattern that excludes many New Jersey households that cannot afford a large-lot single-family home that ability to live near their jobs,” the report said.

The Cherry Hill Courier Post (and other Gannet papers) reports it as "Looking for affordable housing in N.J.? Good luck, report says". They interview Dr. Hasse (a Rutgers and CRSSA alum) who pointed a finger at Home Rule:
"What led New Jersey to the Mount Laurel rulings was a very strong home rule approach to housing and planning. If you leave the choices to the towns themselves, they're going to zone to their advantage and there are other built-in biases that will drive large-lot zoning and other exclusionary measures," Hasse said.The release of the report came a week after Gov. Chris Christie submitted a plan to the state Legislature to abolish the state Council on Affordable Housing.

Does this mean that affordable housing rules are hurting affordable housing availability?  Since no one seems to know where things stand with affordable housing in NJ right now, a report that offers a serious, nuanced description of the current situation will simultaneously be seen as a call for refining the parts that aren't working so well and for dismantling the whole requirement.

If you think this is obscure stuff about which no one cares, read some of the comments on the NJ.com link. Whether or not they understand the deeper issues, commenters clearly saw this as a topic worth writing about.

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