Affordable housing law costing fire victims

A new affordable housing law is forcing a displaced fire victim to pay thousands to the state for the right to rebuild.

Tina Scarnecchia's Lincoln Park home was torn down after being engulfed in flames last fall. Rebuilding the home is considered new construction, so Scarnecchia needs to cough up about $3,000 to the affordable housing fund in order to break ground.

"I thought it was crazy," she says. "You have a fire - you just want to be able to rebuild your home. That honestly might put me in a position where I can't afford the home anymore."

The law is designed to help towns pay for affordable housing as new homes are built. Bill Dressel, president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, is suing the state saying the law is unfair.

"Why should the homeowner be punished?" asks Dressel. "It's absolutely contrary to rational thinking. We were flabbergasted."

A spokesperson for the New Jersey Division of Community Affairs says Lincoln Park does not have to charge a homeowner's fee.

"This is a decision left to the municipality, and one we do not encourage, particularly in the instance of a family rebuilding their home after a fire," says spokesperson Chris Donnelly.

Opponents say the law calls for money to come from somewhere else if the homeowner doesn't pay. The agency says it will take a closer look at the rules to see what can be done to make things easier for homeowners like Scarnecchia.

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