An upcoming roundtable hosted by NJ Spotlight features some of the biggest players on all sides of the state’s affordable housing debate, two of whom have traded harsh words over the issue.
The roundtable, held on Friday, May 31, from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at RWJ Hamilton Center for Health and Wellness, will feature Kevin Walsh, executive director of the Fair Share Housing Center, Assemblywoman Holly T. Schepisi, Christina Foglio of Community Investment Strategies, and Staci Berger of Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. For more information on the free event, visit njspotlight.com.
Walsh in particular has played a major role in the affordable housing debate. His group, Fair Share Housing, has sued towns all over the state for practicing exclusionary zoning and failing to provide enough affordable housing for residents, which they are legally required to do under the Mount Laurel Doctrine. The lawsuits have resulted in towns approving the construction of thousands of affordable units.
A 2018 NJ Spotlight article described Schepisi, a Republican representing Bergen, as “a vocal critic” of the process for determining affordable housing, in which judges set quotas for municipalities. These quotas often result from lawsuits brought by Fair Share. Schepisi has been a leading voice against the affordable housing process, and has recently said affordable housing obligations will “collapse the entire housing market.”
At an Assembly hearing last year, she lashed out at Walsh for calling her names, including xenophobic. “You’ve been so quick to just try to shut down any conversation, any reasonable conversation, putting forth the most inflammatory language against any member of this body who’s attempting to do their job and that’s wrong,” Spotlight quoted Schepisi as saying. “That’s false,” Walsh replied.
The roundtable promises an interesting mix of personalities, and a chance for both sides to air their perspectives.
Walsh is Fair Share Housing Center’s executive director. In 2000 he joined FSHC following a clerkship in the New Jersey Supreme Court. Walsh, a graduate of the Catholic University of America and Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, is responsible for the administration of FSHC and focuses his practice on regulatory challenges and litigation involving high-growth municipalities.
Schepisi is an attorney for Huntington Bailey LLP and previously served as the public defender for the borough of Oakland. She was also the attorney for River Vale Township and a prosecutor for Old Tappan and Westwood. She has a bachelor’s degree in politics and psychology from Catholic University of America and a law degree from Fordham. She was elected to the Assembly in 2012 and has used her position to oppose the affordable housing allocation process.
Christina Foglio founded Community Investment Strategies in 1994. Since then it has become one of the largest builders and managers of affordable housing in the state, including numerous affordable developments in the Route 1 corridor.
Before founding CIS, she was executive director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, serving under two governors. She also chaired the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing. She is also the former president of the not-for-profit New Brunswick Development Corporation, where she oversaw $300 million worth of urban renewal projects.
Staci Berger is CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, a nonprofit organization that coordinates 150 community development corporations throughout the state, supporting their work to revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Before becoming CEO, she served as the director of advocacy and policy for the group. Prior to joining the network, Berger worked for nine years with New Jersey Citizen Action, where she went from being an organizer to the political and legislative director. She received her master’s in public affairs and politics from Rutgers in 2004.