Solution Proposed to Increase Affordable Housing in NJ
Zoning and building code regulations would be relaxed to allow New Jersey municipalities to create Tiny Homes, affordable dwellings between 300 and 500 square-feet, under proposed legislation by New Jersey state Senator Raymond D. Lesniak (D).
Lesniak said his bill would reduce the rent obligation for low income residents or those who are working, but only making between $500 and $1500 a month.
“We have a critical need for affordable housing in the state of New Jersey and there are many municipalities who have property that will be available to replicate Tiny Home Projects going up in New York City, that have been very successful in Seattle, Amsterdam, and London. New Jersey has not seen this happen yet,” said Lesniak.
Lesniak said he expects his measure to move out of a state Senate Committee by the end of February and hopefully get voted on and passed within the next few months.
“We have municipalities ready, willing, and able to take advantage of these smaller homes to provide affordable housing that is currently not available for many of their residents,” he said.
Burlington Township is the only municipality to publicly support the idea, according to Lesniak, but he said Newark is interested in the Tiny Homes Movement and he believes towns like Jersey City would support it as well.
“This will give single person, two-family households an opportunity to have a safe and healthy environment to live in,” said Lesniak.
A family must earn $24.96/hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The decision on whether to allow Tiny Home Projects should be up to local governments individually and not county governments, Lesniak noted. He said there are some mayors who the legislation makes sense for, both in an aesthetic way and for the need of their residents, and there are some towns that just don’t have any interest or a need.
Lesniak predicted there will be a significant demand for Tiny Homes and municipalities that will want to take advantage of the movement for residents who don’t have a lot of income and can’t afford their higher rents.
"But, they need the relaxation of some of the building codes in terms of space that is required that this legislation will provide," he said.
As far as water and sewer fee connections for the Tiny Homes, no taxpayer dollars would be involved, according to Lesniak. He said he removed the appropriations included in the bill because the state doesn’t have the money in its budget.
"There are builders willing to construct these homes, which can be built in an affordable way without any subsidy, or at least a reduced property tax rate which may be necessary since municipalities have properties that are not generating any property taxes at all," said Lesniak. “So this will be away to at least make some property productive and provide affordable housing for those who can’t afford it,” he added.
Lesniak expects his bill to get bi-partisan support because it runs across the gamut.
“There are many empty nest senior citizens who are paying rents that they just can’t afford and for space that they don’t necessarily need and this will help them as well,” he added.
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