Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Court Reaffirms the Need for Affordable Housing

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Court Reaffirms the Need for Affordable Housing

Article excerpt

In the last several years, New Jersey officials have found creative ways to ignore the very real need for affordable housing in the state.

That does not mean the issue disappeared. It doesn't mean municipalities are off the hook when it comes to providing opportunities for low- and moderate-income families seeking "fair share" housing, even in places where clear policy has been lacking.

That was the crux of what the state Supreme Court said Wednesday, in a 6-0 decision that dealt with fulfilling past obligations regarding housing laws and could also mean a surge in the building of new affordable-housing units in the state for years to come.

In a strongly worded opinion, the court reaffirmed the spirit of the landmark Mount Laurel housing cases that date to the 1970s, rulings that held, essentially, that the poor and the middle class should be given access to affordable housing, and that municipalities must allow a reasonable level of development toward that end. As State House Reporter Salvador Rizzo reported, the court's decision, along with dozens of recent settlements negotiated separately by towns, will likely lead to the building of tens of thousands of affordable-housing units in New Jersey over the next decade.

Colandus Francis, chairman of the Fair Share Housing Center's board and an official with the Camden chapter of the NAACP, said the ruling "means that thousands of lower-income and minority families will be given the opportunity to live in safe neighborhoods, send their children to good schools, and work at jobs where they live instead of traveling hours commuting each day."

Affordable housing is complicated in densely populated New Jersey. In some towns, building space is limited. In other cases, there is legitimate worry about overdevelopment.

There is also a scattering of related environmental concerns. …

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