Advocates: affordable housing will help economy

Affordable housing advocates are fighting back against claims that recent housing mandates will damage an already weak economy.

The Cherry Hill-based Fair Share Housing Center released a report Monday arguing that the plans towns submitted in December to provide for affordable housing could generate $15 billion to $25 billion in development over the next decade.

"Housing helps the economy," said David Kinsey, a Princeton-based planning consultant who worked on the study.

The center's argument is that by forcing towns to plan for new affordable housing mandates, many have proposed changing their zoning to allow more density or to revamp old, out of use sites that could be changed into housing. The new rules would allow for some 75,000 new housing units, including 15,000 affordable units, said Adam Gordon, an attorney at the housing center.

The study looked at 268 affordable housing plans towns submitted in December.

Of course, many towns say they can't handle so much new housing and have no room for it. Mayors argue that so much new housing could force towns to pay for added infrastructure such as roads, sewers and schools, with local taxpayers to pick up the tab. And several members of both parties have pointed to a 2.5 percent development fee intended to pay for affordable housing as a serious barrier to construction activity when projects have already slowed due to the ailing economy. (Gov. Corzine has called for a moratorium on the fee).

The state's latest affordable housing mandates call for 115,000 affordable housing units by 2018. Towns have to plan for them, but have objected in court, saying the quotas are too large.

The study also said towns are sitting on a combined $230 million in funds dedicated to affordable housing to help pay for some of the needs. The money has not been used as court battles have waged over what towns' final obligations will be.

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