Housing advocates cheer court ruling as victory for those in need

TRENTON – Affordable housing advocates saw Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling as a victory for working families, people with special needs and others who can’t afford New Jersey’s expensive housing market.

The court endorsed a five-month deadline for the state to come up with regulations that are consistent with the 1970s-Mount Laurel ruling that found towns’ resistance to providing affordable housing was unconstitutional.

“The court’s ruling was an explicit rejection of the Christie administration’s policies in regards to affordable housing,” said Kevin Walsh of Fair Share Housing Center, which advocates on behalf of affordable housing issues.

And Mike McNeil of the N.J. NAACP said that “last night I thought we were going to go back 40 years, but it turned out pretty well.’’

Advocates said that 60,000 to 65,000 affordable housing units have been built over the last few decades, but that the Christie administration tried to change how towns’ obligations are determined.

Staci Berger of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey said that the housing market is out of balance in the state. “It’s as if there was a supermarket selling only caviar and filet mignon.  It needs to sell tuna fish, too.’’   

The advocates expressed optimism that the Council on Affordable Housing – which Christie has been trying to eradicate – will get on with the business of providing more affordable housing for those in need.

McNeil made reference to those living in the tent city in Ocean County.  “They are not all from Ocean County,’’ he said. “They are from all over the state. They can’t afford to live where they came from.’’

The so-called third round of rules in 2008 under the Corzine administration had sought more than 100,000 affordable housing units by 2018.  In 2010 a lower court invalidated those third-round rules, but invited the Supreme Court to rule on a concept called “growth share,” which said towns would provide affordable housing as new development takes place.

The court, in a voluminous 3-2 ruling, said the third round of regulations were in conflict with the state’s Fair Housing Act. It also said the people in need of affordable housing can’t remain in “limbo” until state agencies develop new approaches, and it endorsed the five-month deadline to reimpose the third round of rules.

Housing advocates cheer court ruling as victory for those in need