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MT. LAUREL, NJ-Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday signed legislation aimed at reforming the state’s housing laws. That signed occurred in this South Jersey community where, in the early 1970s, a lawsuit led to a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that required communities to help create affordable housing.

“Through these measures, we are ending decades of unfair, unbalanced and insufficient provision of affordable housing,” says Corzine, in a statement. “The fact is, this legislation holds much promise for thousands of New Jerseyans who want to stay in their hometown, to work there and raise their families there, but simply can’t afford to live there.”

Among other things, bill A500/S1783, eliminates the Regional Contribution Agreement that has allowed communities to meet their affordable housing obligations by paying poorer towns to build the housing there. It also replaces the Neighborhood Preservation Nonlapsing Revolving Fund with the New Jersey Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The latter will have very specific accounting and reporting, with oversight by the Department of Community Affairs.

Also, developers will be charged a fee of 2.5% of the value of commercial projects to help finance the construction or rehab of affordable housing, with towns required to commit those fees for that purpose. And 20% of all state-assisted housing projects must be set aside for affordable housing.

Another 13% of all affordable housing must be set aside for families that earn less than 30% of the state’s median income. All state agencies are required to include affordable housing impact statements when drawing up new regulations. And a state Housing Commission will be set up to develop a strategic plan and report annually to the legislature.

Finally, the bill creates the Urban Housing Assistance Fund, funded by a yearly $20 million state appropriation from the receipts of the statewide non-residential development fees collected by the State Treasurer.

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