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Op-Ed: A Tax Credit Program that Works, Creates Jobs, and Is Well-Run

Elected officials are debating the future of NJ tax credits. They should look at the modest, but high-achieving, Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program — and consider expanding it

Staci Berger
Staci Berger

In Paterson, a nonprofit developer created 11 new affordable homes and 2,800 square feet of ground-floor retail space in a mixed-use building. In Camden, a neighborhood group repurposed a blighted old theater into a full-size gymnasium and recreation center serving 400 students annually. In Perth Amboy, a nonprofit organization gave vision testing and glasses to over 400 low-income middle school students.

These are just a handful of examples of how a small, innovative state tax-credit program with a proven track record of success is revitalizing neighborhoods, bringing new investment and creating permanent businesses, jobs, and homes.

Since its inception in 2002, the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit program (NRTC) has become one of the most successful public/private programs furthering community development and neighborhood change in New Jersey, leveraging $5-$7 for every dollar invested. A 2016 survey of NRTC-funded projects found that the program helped create 148 rental homes, 278 homes for sale, 2,524 jobs, and generated over $3.9 million in property taxes. It also helped put 167 vacant and abandoned properties back on local tax rolls and developed 470,798 square feet of commercial space.

Revitalizing low- and moderate-income neighborhoods

The NRTC program was designed by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, authorized by the New Jersey Legislature in 2002, and is administered by the state Department of Community Affairs. It offers business entities who invest in the revitalization of eligible low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, a tax credit against various state taxes. Annually, $10 million is available in tax credits, with a maximum of $1 million per well-vetted project. Over 53 projects have been completed in 26 municipalities as far north as Philipsburg and as far south as Salem.

NRTC has helped create youth programs and job-training programs, urban farms, community centers, affordable homes, small businesses and so much more. The recent audit of an Economic Development Authority’s tax incentive program has revealed a lack of oversight and accountability for the $11 billion of approved tax credits between 2005 and 2017. The audit could not determine detailed economic return on investment, including job creation. In contrast, the NRTC program has rigorous oversight and has a demonstrated tax record of success in neighborhoods that need public and private sector support.

During the time that $11 billion in tax incentives were being distributed, community developers worked with the very modest NRTC to strengthen communities, create jobs, and build affordable homes. For over five years, community developers and private sector partners have urged elected officials to increase the NRTC to $30 million, as the demand for this community-driven, local program far outstripped the available credit.

As our elected officials debate the future of tax credits, one thing is certain: The NRTC is a tax credit that works. It holds investors and community groups accountable and deserves expansion. It is a proven initiative that builds thriving neighborhoods and affordable communities of choice for current and future residents.

Staci Berger is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ.

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