A bipartisan-supported bill that would reinstate a moratorium on nonresidential construction project fees was unanimously advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday.
The original moratorium on the fees, which are designated to fund affordable housing projects, had expired in July. The new bill would extend it through the end of 2014.
Under the bill, municipalities which collected the affordable housing fees after the moratorium's expiration must return them to developers. However, municipalities that have already been spent the money from the fees on affordable housing projects will not be required to refund the developers.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-West Deptford), one of the bill's five sponsors, said that while affordable housing initiatives are important, the focus currently should be on continuing to grow the economy and recover from the recession.
"We all support affordable housing, but we also must be cognizant that the state's economy continues to struggle with high unemployment and paltry economic growth," Burzichelli said in a release. "This moratorium is the right thing to do until we're confident the economy has rebounded and we've created enough jobs to sustain the recovery."
Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce (R-Parsippany), also a bill sponsor, said that the bill helps promote the building industry, which she called one of the state's "key economic drivers."
"Extending the moratorium will save builders from reapplying for approvals previously obtained which only drives up the costs of a project," DeCroce said in a release. "Many jobs are created both directly and indirectly due to the building industry, such as suppliers, financial institutions and real estate."
Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said he saw the matter as an issue of competitiveness. With the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act and its slew of incentives, to not extend the moratorium would "almost kind of neutralize" and contradict everything the state is working for in terms of development.