In my previous post I left off by saying that I would be looking into the pros and cons of the Mt. Laurel Decision, as well as eliciting some of the potential economic downfalls that have come from the decision’s rejection. I am confident that this post will give readers a better image of what affordable housing looks like in Camden County and why the placement of affordable housing is important to the concentration of poverty. I also hope to describe what, in fact, the Mt. Laurel decision is. This post may be the best indicator as to why Camden and cities like it exist in New Jersey.
The Mt. Laurel Decision is essentially a court case that was taken to the New Jersey State Supreme Court that debates the interpretation of the State Constitution. The Decision requires all municipalities to use their zoning powers in an affirmative manner to provide a realistic opportunity for the construction of affordable housing to low and moderate income households. Often times the term “exclusionary zoning” is brought up while speaking of the Mt. Laurel decision. Exclusionary zoning could be a case in which municipalities use their zoning powers to exclude specific persons based upon their socioeconomic status’ via requirements such as minimum size lots that make it impossible for low income earners to afford property in a specific municipality.
So, based upon this knowledge, is Camden County providing equal opportunities to construct affordable housing developments? I do not believe so based upon the following:
After compiling all of the data provided by Guide to Affordable Housing in New Jersey for Camden County into an understandable format, we are able to see an extremely high concentration of affordable housing in Camden City when compared to the rest of Camden County as a whole.
The above chart shows that Camden City (Blue) holds 58.1% of all affordable housing units in the County, while all of the other Camden County municipalities (green) combine to hold 41.9%. This alone shows how exclusionary zoning has created a deliberate concentration of poverty, which has correlated into Camden City annually needing more than $300 million in State Aid, with no real end to the trend in sight.
As alarming as the above graph is, it does not show the true severity of the issue. Affordable housing units are classified in three different ways, and in some cases a development can be classified as more than one. The first classification is denoted FAM, which describes family units that are available to anyone that meets the income requirements for affordable housing. Next is AGE, which describes age restricted developments, typically 62 years of age and older facilities. Finally, SPC describes affordable housing units for those of a wide range of special needs.
The true severity of the concentration of affordable housing is the fact that Camden City holds 76.8% of the housing available to families of low income. This means that poor children are 76.8% more likely to live in Camden City than anywhere else in the County, which means there are a lot of children that struggle with food insecurity, neighborhood crime, and poor health, all consolidated into one school district, which is expected to perform just as well as any other.
To tentatively conclude, it is obvious that Camden City exists in a state of high poverty concentration because of exclusionary zoning in surrounding municipalities, which limit low to moderate income families to very few living options outside of Camden City. Going forward, the Governor needs to stop advocating against the advancement of the Mt. Laurel decision, because by doing so he is actually fighting to keep Camden and places like it in their same dilapidated states of being. If more municipalities were required to provide more affordable housing units, especially FAM units, more students would have an opportunity to learn in less crime ridden environments, which automatically gives more low income students a better potential of being middle class adults. The Governor also needs to realize that by attempting to trash talk the Mt. Laurel litigation, and calling the doctrine “an abomination” he is actually looking to create a fiscal problem larger and more permanent than the $2 Billion issue he believes to be of public employee pensions, as he mentioned in his State of the State. New Jersey poverty costs dwarf state employee funds, simply by referring to my first post about Amoebaville, NJ needing more than $2 Billion to function for just one year.
Again and again, we see that we can no longer ignore poverty in New Jersey by annually applying band-aide remedies.