Kyle Farmbry

Among the many challenges brought by COVID-19, the pandemic is exposing the vast scope of our housing affordability crisis. This crisis has been brewing for some time, and policy responses such as moratoria on evictions and the provision of rental assistance have provided crucial lifelines for countless families dealing with crisis. However, the scale of the problem is only growing as the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic is felt in communities throughout the state and the nation.

This September, the NJ Policy Lab committed to supporting The NJ Housing Crisis in a COVID-Era: Mapping Strategic Processes, a project that will report on the policy responses shaped by housing disparities in the COVID-19 era.   Led by Rutgers professors Kyle Farmbry (School of Public Affairs and Administration) and David Troutt (Rutgers Law School – Newark), this project will examine strategic development and organizational learning processes of housing efforts in five New Jersey municipalities: Newark, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Trenton, and Camden.

Earlier this year, the Center on Law, Inequality and Metropolitan Equity (CLiME), which was founded by Professor Troutt, conducted an analysis on the affordability of Newark’s housing stock that revealed significant gaps in low and affordable rental units. Most notably, CLiME’s data estimated that there is a low-income housing shortage of 16,234 units within the Newark. This figure will likely increase with the challenges of the pandemic in the absence of significant public investment in equitable housing policy and local determination.

Drawing from CLiME’s methodology and data, this project will explore the interplay between local, state, and federal policies and institutions as they respond to New Jersey’s housing crisis, with a focus on issues of affordability, displacement, and the challenges of housing inequality during the COVID-era. A key focus of these efforts is on how organizational learning occurs in relation to agency strategic processes on housing policy formulation, management, and execution based on changing circumstances (eg. shortages, lawsuits, fiscal constraints, and political considerations). It will enhance an understanding of how various stakeholders are engaged in strategy formulation around housing accessibility, particularly in a Post COVID-era. Finally, the project will serve as the foundation for a broader initiative for examining housing disparities and affordable housing in New Jersey and in other states.

It is anticipated that the project will establish a foundational framework for developing instruments to assess organizational learning processes in municipalities in New Jersey and elsewhere around affordable housing.