New Jersey Cities Dragging Feet on Court-Mandated Affordable Housing Plans

Fair housing has taken national stage in recent weeks—a Supreme Court ruling and a Department of Housing and Urban Development rule now define fair housing. The New Jersey Supreme Court has also had its say on the subject, and cities are catching up.
July 11, 2015, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"When it comes to the question of towns building their 'fair share' of affordable housing, the New Jersey Supreme Court could not have been clearer than my son is when arguing for fair cookie-distribution," writes Serena Rice in an op-ed for The Star-Ledger. "In the most recent Mount Laurel decision, the court restated in the strongest terms that New Jersey has a clear commitment to affordable housing, and that promise needs to be fulfilled now." The ruling earlier this year reinforced the so-called "Mount Laurel doctrine," which states that munipalities are obligated to provide a fair share of affordable housing.

Controversy over how some states calculate their municipal obligations to develop affordable housing preceded the Supreme Court decision. Rice pins the blame for the practice of undercounting municipal obligations on Robert Burchell, co-director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University. In a separate article, Colleen O'Dea reports on Burchell's role in the controversy leading up to the decision as well as his ongoing roll as a contractor in cities working to meet the guidelines produced by the Supreme Court ruling.

The ruling became effective last month, allowing a 30-day period for municipalities to seek approval for housing plans from the court. In the op-ed, Rice expresses concern that cities will continue to undercount and resist the mandate to provide their fair share of affordable housing.

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Published on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in The Star-Ledger
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