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No Common Ground for Christie and Buono on Social Issues, Policies

Buono also voted for a bill (S-1) in 2010 and amended in early 2011 that would have abolished COAH and set up very different criteria for determining how much affordable housing communities would need to provide. Christie conditionally vetoed it, writing that the bill “requires that at least 10 percent of the total housing units in most municipalities be dedicated as affordable housing, creating obligations for many municipalities throughout the state well in excess of what is required under the current failed COAH system.”

"Senator Buono believes it is time to move past COAH, but in a way that follows the law,” said Sam Salustro, a spokesman for the Buono campaign. “The Legislature presented Governor Christie with a bill that would disband COAH but also took serious steps to make sure we meet our obligation to provide families in all communities with affordable homes. Christie vetoed the bill and tried to steal funds from towns to balance his irresponsible budgets, and has done nothing to create more affordable homes in New Jersey. That's not a solution.”

Christie’s 2013 budget would have taken as much as $164 million in unspent monies from municipal affordable housing trust funds. Roberts said budget language proposed by Christie would “limit usage of these funds to uses that support the provision of housing for households and individuals with low and moderate incomes.” But it would have freed up other state funds that then would have been used to balance the budget. The courts delayed the taking of that money, although that process was to have begun within the past several months. A COAH spokeswoman did not respond to a request for information about the status of the funds.

Roberts said Christie’s budget provides funding for “a wide array of housing assistance programs.”

“He has delayed and blocked affordable housing in this state,” said Buono during the second debate. “Not only did he fail to offer a remedy for affordable housing, but he thwarted it by trying to take money from municipalities.”

For her part, Buono has voted for, and once cosponsored, legislation seeking to have the state purchase foreclosed properties and turn them into affordable housing. Lawmakers have passed one form of this bill or another three times, the most recent was S-2716, and Christie has vetoed it each time. In one of those veto messages, Christie said he wanted to leave it up to the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to decide how to best handle the problem of home foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, New Jersey’s foreclosure rate of 16 percent is among the highest in the nation.

“Senator Buono will hold towns accountable to creating affordable-living options in their communities, and pursue commonsense measures like turning foreclosed properties into affordable homes," Salustro said.

Berger said that as majority leader, Buono tried to save the $40 million in Mortgage Stabilization Relief funds earmarked to help home owners facing foreclosure. Christie took the money to help balance the budget in February 2010 when he declared a “state of fiscal emergency” shortly after taking office.

She said the lack of information on housing proposals during this campaign may make it harder for the average voter to judge the candidates, but “It’s important for people worried about those issues to know where they stand.”

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