The air was cleared on the negative effects of building high-density housing in New Jersey during Thursday’s Assembly environment committee meeting.
Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi brought the issue up after New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel mentioned that vehicle exhaust accounts for 45 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“For the most densely populated state in the entire country, we have moved forward with plans to build hundreds of thousands of new units of housing all around the state,” said Schepisi.
The state Supreme Court has required municipalities to build affordable housing, giving builders and the Fair Share Housing Center the ability to sue based on a private assumption of housing needs. Fair Share says municipalities are obligated to build more than 285,000 new units total.
“The biggest problem we have in New Jersey is really the failure to move forward when it comes to reducing air pollution and carbon from mobile sources,” said Tittel. The state already has more than 211,000 residents who commute over ninety minutes per day.
“What sort of impact are we going to have with hundreds of thousands of new units of housing, potentially hundreds of thousands of new vehicles in the state with no plans to remedy that or address that?” asked Schepisi (R-Bergen). “At the same time we are entering into these sorts of things for feel good measures when we are ignoring real things that are going to have an impact.”
The committee considered two bills that would set emission goals in the state, but neither addresses transportation issues that largely contribute to pollution.
“We should be looking at legislation that does address what Mr. Tittel was talking about with respect to the amount of cars on the highways,” said Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-Bergen). “And to Assemblywoman Schepisi’s statement about COAH requirements and the amount of homes that will need to be built, the additional amount of transportation issues that are going to come with that. Those are the pieces of legislation we should be speaking about.”
“I would invite each of you to become co-prime sponsors of my affordable housing legislation,” said Schepisi, “to be able to take into account things like the environment, infrastructure and traffic. I welcome the bipartisan support of my bills.”
Schepisi’s affordable housing package includes:
- Ending municipal obligations and requiring COAH to calculate and administer a statewide obligation (A1645/A1647/ACR80).
- Requiring COAH to determine if towns can afford new housing and establishing a challenge to the obligation (A1646/A1648).
- Eliminating the urban aid exemption from affordable housing obligations and amending the constitution to prohibit exclusionary zoning (A1649/ACR79).
- Terminating the builder’s remedy that coerces affordable housing (A1650).