Camden’s poverty is in some considerable sense the product of a dual housing market, where affordable housing is highly concentrated in the city, while difficult to access in the suburbs. Contemporary attacks on New Jersey’s means for providing affordable housing under the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel ruling that every city provide its “fair share” of affordable housing promises to make a bad situation even worse. Governor Christie’s conditional veto of a bill passed by the legislature setting forth new rules replacing the state’s Council on Affordable Housing leaves prospects for providing additional affordable housing very much up in the air.
The concentration of affordable housing in one location also concentrates poverty and associated social problems. Camden’s high levels of poverty require additional measures for public safety, but the city’s budget shortfall, also a product of lower valued housing and resulting meager property tax revenues, forced the dismissal of half the city’s police force and led to dismantling the city’s police system entirely in favor of a county-based force. As that process advanced, Camden’s homicide rate reached a record high of 67 in 2012.
The PBS program “Need to Know” provided a worthy assessment of the context of Camden’s immediate fiscal problems. You can view the program here.
Camden has received its share of attention over the years. To track some of its physical changes, I recommend the website featuring Camilo Jose Vergara’s photographic documentation of the city over a thirty-year period, accessible here.
This project received funding from the Ford Foundation, as part of a demonstration of the need to advance principles of regional equity.
Another source of information about the city, and especially community-building efforts there, can be found at camdencommunity.rutgers.edu. A section calling for comments from past residents had to be closed due to corruption of that part of the site. See also, the compilation of information on the city kept current at http://www.camconnect.org/.
Inquirer columnist Kevin Riordan has written a very nice essay about my work on Camden and how it fits into my career more generally. See the essay as it appeared, along with a short video May 3rd.
Too often small businesses in the city are overlooked. Here’s a report which might encourage another way of thinking about commerce in Camden.