Behind the Fund for New Jersey's Support of a Housing Rights Group

With its largest grant to date from the Fund for New Jersey, Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC) is charging ahead with its mission to expand affordable housing and fight exclusionary zoning throughout New Jersey. 

The Fund for New Jersey has been supporting FSHC since 2007, with grants growing in size from $50,000 to this year's $160,000. 

The Fund for New Jersey is a legacy foundation started by Charles Wallace, an inventor and businessman, in 1958. Rather than give specific goals or directions to the fund, Mr. Wallace "left the future philanthropic decisions of the trust to future generations." The goal was to use the money to "address today's problems." The fund gives to children's causes, the ACLU, and a wide range of social justice advocacy organizations.

One of those social justice advocacy organizations is Fair Share Housing Center, which has been working zoning issues for years, taking on a huge challenge that tends to be overlooked by many housing groups. As Liza Prevost recently documented in her book Snob Zones: Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate, exclusionary zoning that blocks high-density housing is a key way that largely white suburbs keep out people of color and low-income newcomers more generally. 

Decades ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court took action against this practice, and enforcing those decisions on behalf of New Jersey's poor residents is the principle mission of FSHC. 

The organization helps advocate for high-density affordable housing, which is an especially pressing issue in New Jersey, since the state is on a path to run out of space for residential housing in the near future. Suburbs that try to lock out higher density housing are making matters worse, as reports show.  

Another of the fights that Fair Share Housing is taking up is the protection of elderly, disabled, and working families. A current proposal by Governor Christie is one that Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin Walsh believes would further divide the state into the haves and the have-nots. “Governor Christie’s housing proposal would allow the wealthy to live in isolated enclaves and to put up gates that exclude working families, seniors, and people with special needs, especially people of color. That’s not good for our society or our economy.”

On a third front, Fair Share Housing has been advocating for home-owners impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The group recently helped get $200 million more allocated for housing costs around the disaster relief effort for Hurricane Sandy victims.

In short, Fair Share Housing Center is an important ally of New Jersey's poor. Yet as far we can tell, this organization has attracted support from few other foundations besides the Fund for New Jersey. That seems odds.