Broadening economic integration, affordable housing key to Newark growth | Opinion

By Newark community and business leaders

Posted on July 28, 2017

Kiburi Tucker, son of the late Newark City Councilman and Assemblyman Donald Tucker and Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, joined city officials at a groundbreaking Monday for the 42-unit Tucker View apartment and commercial project he is developing in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark's South Ward.

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We represent some of the core neighborhood-based Community Development Corporations (CDCs) 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. We know we must grow our city for it to move forward for everyone.

As leaders committed to the creation of more housing that Newark residents can afford, we disagree with the campaign being waged by Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins against the proposed Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO).

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.

We believe market-rate housing development is good and should result in fair-share benefits for current residents -- which is the point of the IZO.

This is why for the past year we have worked with the Baraka administration in crafting an IZO that followed best practices as established by IZO's developed over the past 40 years throughout the country in over 500 municipalities.

The core of Chaneyfield Jenkins' position is one put forth frequently by developers: that IZO's 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 that some developers have raised since IZO's began in the '70s. But the research over the years overwhelmingly shows that IZOs do NOT stifle or stop development. We conducted extensive research from a wide variety of academic institutions and policy centers which show the benefits of IZO's 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 1970s, the total may be double that. Another 15,000-20,000 have been built in New Jersey since the Mt. Laurel decision, and another 15,000 or more in the DC area. A reasonable estimate for total IZO production nationally would probably be in the area of 100,000 affordable units.

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The IZO is not a tax and does not apply to all projects.

The original IZO 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 IZO 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 IZO 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 IZO's historically have been dynamic, they can be amended and adjusted as the need arises.

Through the IZO 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 IZO 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.

Submitted by:

Richard Cammarieri, chair of the Newark Community Development Network

Joe Della Fave, executive director of the Ironbound Community Corporation

Ray Ocasio, executive director of La Casa de Don Pedro

Rhonda Lewis, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corp. of Greater Newark

Deborah Smith-Gregory, president of the NAACP - Newark Branch

Rich Rohrman, CEO of New Community Corporation

Vivina Cox Fraser, president and CEO of the Urban League of Essex County

Veronica Manning, executive director of Unified Vailsburg Services Organization

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