Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a recent event in this file photo — Photo by Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office
By Joshua Burd
New Jersey has “everything we need for our future success,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday, as he highlighted new proposals for tax credits tied to brownfield cleanups, historic rehabilitations and other policies meant to spur new affordable housing and economic growth.
A day after unveiling a sweeping economic agenda, Murphy recounted several pieces of the new platform during the annual Governor’s Conference on Housing and Economic Development. They include an expansion of how the state supports and incentivizes efforts to clean up polluted, formerly industrial sites — with proposals such as a brownfield remediation and redevelopment tax credit and a new dedicated loan fund through the Economic Development Authority.
“We see a new direction for our brownfields program,” Murphy told a packed ballroom in Atlantic City, “so sites that were part of our economic past can again be a part of our future, where new and affordable housing can replace a barren lot, connecting a community rather than separating it.”
For the first-year governor, who delivered the keynote address, it was a chance to bring his message to hundreds of professionals focused on the intersection of real estate and public policy. The revamped brownfields program would be just one piece of that effort and work hand in hand with other pieces, such as a state historic preservation tax credit, which Murphy said would complement the federal credits that are often critical to rehabilitation projects.
He noted that the federal government enjoys a nearly 30 percent return on the total amount of the credits awarded, “while creating local jobs and giving older buildings a second life.”
“Let’s put returns like this to work in our state,” Murphy said. He added that he sees the potential every day in Trenton, whose rich industrial legacy has left behind scores of buildings that could be readapted and revitalized.
“With just a little bit more of an incentive for private capital and for folks to take a little bit more risk to come in there, you can see that community transforming itself,” he said. “Again, it has to work for everybody, in particular those who fought and stayed.”
Murphy reinforced his messages of inclusiveness and economic equality, both themes that were part of his campaign and the broad plan he unveiled on Monday. The state is taking steps to support the new federal Opportunity Zone program, including a plan for the New Jersey Redevelopment Authority to identify shovel-ready investment projects.
As another complement to the brownfields and historic tax credit programs, Murphy recapped plans for a new place-based gap financing tool known as NJ Aspire. The program would aim to spur investments in commercial, residential and mixed-use projects, including parking, with a focus on cities, downtowns and suburban neighborhoods served by mass transit.
Working in tandem, he said, the programs “can do more than create new places where a family can find a safe and affordable home, where a small business can grow and a diverse community can come together tomorrow.”
“These programs highlight the simple fact that we have everything we need for our future success,” Murphy said. “We just needed leadership willing to see their promise.”