NJ Supreme Court: Judges will enforce affordable housing rules

 Kevin Walsh, representing Fair Share Housing, addresses the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding the state's affordable housing rules. Proponents say the courts need to step in because the Christie administration is overdue on delivering workable rules to comply with state law and past court decisions mandating that towns provide affordable housing for lower-income residents. (AP file photo)

Kevin Walsh, representing Fair Share Housing, addresses the New Jersey Supreme Court regarding the state's affordable housing rules. Proponents say the courts need to step in because the Christie administration is overdue on delivering workable rules to comply with state law and past court decisions mandating that towns provide affordable housing for lower-income residents. (AP file photo)

In a unanimous decision, New Jersey’s Supreme Court has ruled that judges should take over enforcement of affordable housing rules.

 

The high court found the State Council on Affordable Housing failed to comply with the court’s directive to enact new guidelines for towns on setting aside housing for low-and-moderate-income residents.

Towns now will be able to project how many affordable homes are needed, said Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center.

“They’re going to prepare a plan that they would present to the court and if the plan complies with the law, those towns won’t get sued,” Walsh said. “If it doesn’t comply with the law, those towns will get sued in all likelihood.”

But towns still want lawmakers and the governor to reach a solution on affordable housing policy, said Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, who also serves as president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

“There needs to be some finality here. All towns are looking for reasonable responsible rules to abide by,” he said.

The court’s ruling was the latest in decades of litigation set in motion with the 1975 Mount Laurel ruling.

“This ensures the Mount Laurel doctrine is going to be enforced and that municipalities all around the state will have to take steps in order to allow people of different incomes to live in their towns, not just build or allow to be built housing for wealthier folks,” Walsh said.

The court ruling is probably the best that towns could have expected, said Wahler.

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