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Latest ‘Economic Opportunity Act’ bill approved by Senate

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Sen. Lesniak's
Sen. Lesniak's "Economic Opportunity Act of 2014" was passed by the Senate Thursday. - ()

The first part of state Sen. Raymond Lesniak’s (D-Union) “Economic Opportunity Act of 2014” was passed 34-2 by the Senate Thursday, sending the bill onward for Assembly consideration.

The bill, which also lists state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) as a sponsor, focuses primarily on affordable housing and redevelopment incentives that Lesniak had originally hoped would have landed in last year’s landmark bill, the “Economic Opportunity Act of 2013.”

Included in the new bill is a relaxation of a requirement that developers set aside 20 percent of new residential units for low- or moderate-income housing. Municipalities will instead be granted the authority to determine what percentage of newly-constructed units are to be reserved for those income levels.

“Many of our urban municipalities have an adequate supply of affordable housing and need more market rate units to attract a diversity of income,” Lesniak said. “Plus, the set aside requirement can create a financial disincentive and hamper urban development.”

The legislation also provides developers with an extension for submitting certificates of occupancy in order to receive the credit, and offers an additional $250 in tax credits set aside solely for affordable housing purposes.

“The development of affordable housing has unfortunately slowed significantly in New Jersey as the governor challenges the authority and the mandate of the Council on Affordable Housing,” Pou said. “This additional money will help spur interest and give communities greater opportunities to leverage the money to get additional federal dollars.”

Lesniak has said in the future he will introduce the second part to the legislation, an expansion of the state’s tax credits for film and digital media productions that has thus far received negative feedback from Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

Originally, Lesniak introduced both parts together as one large follow-up bill to last year’s incentives overhaul but withdrew it in December in order to break it into two separate less-controversial bills.


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