Amplifying their voices in support of affordable housing: Camden Coalition’s Senior Program Manager for Community Engagement Whitney Buchmann, and Community Advisory Committee members Jamal Brown, Ana Castellar, and Miguel Rodriguez (L to R).

 

For the last 10 years, New Jersey has diverted funding away from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, leaving communities with few resources to make homes accessible to low-income residents. To help secure funding for the Trust Fund in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, Camden Coalition Advisory Committee members participated in the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s Annual Legislative Day at the New Jersey State House in Trenton on June 10. 

Housing has increasingly become a priority for the Camden Coalition because our program participants’ health outcomes are directly impacted by their living conditions. As our Housing First participants, like Miguel Rodriquez and Jamal Brown, experience stability in their new homes, they are inspired to champion such legislative priorities as fully funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 

Upon arriving at the State House, affordable housing supporters formed regional teams to meet with their respective representatives and discuss their priorities for healthier, safer, and more affordable homes. The Camden Coalition’s Senior Program Manager Whitney Buchmann led a Camden team that included representatives from St Joseph’s Carpenter Society, Parkside Business & Community In Partnership, and Community Advisory Committee members Ana Castellar, Jamal Brown, and Miguel Rodriguez. While meeting with Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald’s staff, the group was asked how much money was allocated to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund last year. Bridget Phifer of Parkside Business & Community in Partnership responded, “Zero dollars. And the year before that, zero dollars.” 

Miguel added that it wasn’t just about keeping the money in the fund, but about “using it to develop more affordable housing.” As a Camden Coalition Housing First program participant, Miguel could attest to just how long it took him to obtain affordable housing: three years. As Camden Coalition staff learned the previous week at a talk given by Reverend Eric Dobson of Fair Share Housing Center, each municipality must meet its fair share obligation for establishing affordable housing to ensure that there are realistic opportunities for low and moderate-income residents to live in the city.

While Governor Murphy’s proposed budget released earlier this year restored funding to the Housing Trust Fund for the first time in a decade, the enacted budget ultimately approved on June 30 only included a $15 million allocation to the Trust Fund. Even though the Trust Fund wasn’t fully restored, this is a huge step forward for New Jersey and a win for housing advocates across the state. 

Community Advisory Committee members appreciated the opportunity to participate in this important advocacy and plan to continue their advocacy when they join Monarch Housing Associates and other New Jersey housing advocates later this month in Washington, D.C.

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