Affordable housing law proposal to be reworked after procedural mess-up

NEWARK -- The city's push to create low- and moderate-income homes amid Newark's building boom hit another snag Wednesday -- forcing city officials to once again submit a new plan. 

For months, Mayor Ras Baraka has pitched an inclusionary zoning ordinance, which would mandate residential developers to provide at least 20 percent affordable units or to contribute money to help build those affordable units elsewhere. But the measure has stalled and stopped over concerns from City Council members and calls to strengthen the requirements by housing activists.

Last week, a vote to adopt the ordinance failed after a council member said he received a different version of the law and would not vote on legislation that was pushed through last minute.

The council voted to table the ordinance but then rescinded the move and agreed to defer it after Baraka urged the council to reconsider. 

On Wednesday, Baraka said he was told by the City Clerk's Office that the council's maneuver was "not appropriate" because Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins, who made the motion to table the ordinance, did not make the motion to un-table it as required by statute. 

Chaneyfield-Jenkins was not at Wednesday's meeting.

The measure passed on first reading in June after months of wrangling between housing advocates, developers and political leaders over how to balance development with affordability. 

"We're going to reissue another one and try to get it done faster," Baraka said, adding that his administration would submit a new proposal for next month's council meeting. "We want to expedite this," he said.

North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos said he was concerned the law could squeeze smaller developers who are trying to rehabilitate eyesores in the city.

"We're in a position where we could potentially have small- and medium-sized developers muscled out of the development process," he said, suggesting the city find a way to guard against negatively impacting smaller developers.

Baraka said the new proposal will address those concerns and proposed changes from the council. The next council meeting is Aug. 2.

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