Trenton's "Missing Mayor" offered up a typically shallow and empty statement of surprise and non-blame regarding the city's weak financial status in a "closed" press conference this afternoon.

Read his prepared remarks here or at:


Home arrow Editorials arrow Editorials arrow No Further Delay on RCAs
No Further Delay on RCAs PDF Print E-mail
Written by Frank Weeden   
Sunday, 23 September 2007

With growing public opposition to Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs), Trentonians have been subject to the predictable chorus of excuses from our mayor and other politicians who have supported this perverse loophole allowing suburban municipalities to send their affordable housing obligations to poor inner cities. Now, as legislative pressure mounts to eliminate it, these same politicians would have us think they are leading the charge for reform. The truth is, they now want to stall the issue in a “blue ribbon” commission which will take years to establish that which is already laid out in the New Jersey State Plan and soundly predicated on Mount Laurel and the Federal Fair Housing Act. Indeed, it is high time New Jersey acted comprehensively on affordable housing policy, but waiting for that perfect synergy to come about is no justification for further delaying the abolition of its most discriminatory and counter-productive component.

Thanks to the RCA loophole, the modest requirements for suburban municipalities to provide affordable housing have been largely diverted to urban areas with the highest concentration of poverty, greatest job scarcity, poorest school performance, and most stagnant real estate markets. Sound research and common sense clearly conclude that RCA policy has discriminated against Blacks and Latinos and further segregated our minorities into ever expanding urban ghettos with few opportunities for advancement. The collateral effects have overburdened the social services infrastructure, the school system, and our cities’ long-term solvency. Far from improving socio-economic health, RCAs have exacerbated racial disparities and made it that much more difficult for cities to get back on their feet.

Mr. Dressel of the New Jersey League of Municipalities claims RCAs have been used “wisely”. On the contrary, RCA funds have been unwisely awarded to out-of-town developers instead of local contractors who might have created real jobs for Trenton residents; RCAs have been unwisely used to build developer expedient tract housing instead of nurturing existing communities and re-building the urban fabric of our historic neighborhoods; RCAs have been unwisely used to lock minority homebuyers into mortgages on a home that will not generate the long term equity they could have banked on in a suburban real estate market.

Since the introduction of RCAs in 1998, despite his leadership role around the State, Mayor Palmer has not raised one objection to the clearly discriminatory nature of this policy. In fact, Trenton has been the greatest recipient in total dollars (some $30 million), and the result is anything but a renaissance. It’s high time we realized that what Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts rightly refers to as “blood money” has been the “lifeblood” of a mayor who has become addicted to its political and financial rewards at the expense of New Jersey’s minorities and the capital city we live in.

The mayor speaks of formulating “need-driven” affordable housing policy and still does not recognize that the real need is for equal access to education and employment, two essentials abundant in prosperous suburbs and which this mayor has failed to deliver after seventeen years in office. It would behoove the mayor to concentrate on real strategies for education and economic investment instead of satisfying himself with being the State’s custodian of poverty and denying deserving prospective homeowners access to the real American dream.   

Critics’ long time opposition to RCAs is neither “philosophical” nor “rhetorical” as our mayor has remarked. It is a recognition of the hard fact that concentrating affordable housing in economically depressed cities further segregates our society, concentrates poverty, is wholly unsustainable, and that we would like something concrete done about it. On the other hand, what is purely “rhetorical” and “political” is our mayor likening his housing policy allusions to the historic voting rights struggle in Selma, Alabama. Since he has never acted on discriminatory housing policy, all we can conclude from his “Our March for the American Dream” editorial is that we should hold off marching until it suits his personal agenda. Unfortunately, due to the lack of integrity and resolve of many of our urban mayors, much of the damage is done. This generation of potential homebuyers will have to settle for housing choices as limited as the “red-lining” days of our segregated past.

Passing Joe Roberts’ bill A-3857 and scrapping the RCA program will not reduce total affordable housing dollars in New Jersey and will make sure at least some token amount is built within reach of good schools and jobs. Eliminating RCA’s rightly re-instates the modest obligations mandated by Mount Laurel and COAH requiring our prosperous suburban neighbors to offer some degree of affordable housing and do their share to build a just and equitable society. The time is now to reverse the step backward RCAs took us so we can begin marching forward again toward a comprehensive and workable affordable housing policy. 


Frank Weeden

Frank Weeden is founder and CEO of Ana Design Corp. and was a 2006 Trenton mayoral candidate.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 23 September 2007 )
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