The Starting Point: Structuring Newark's Land Use Laws at the Outset of Redevelopment to Promote Integration without Displacement

By Welman, Malina | Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, Fall 2019 | Go to article overview

The Starting Point: Structuring Newark's Land Use Laws at the Outset of Redevelopment to Promote Integration without Displacement


Welman, Malina, Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems


Housing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be fully understood apart from the residences of its members.1

In 2017, New Jersey's largest municipality, Newark, made history when its city council passed an inclusionary zoning ordinance requiring, in part, that at least twenty percent of new residential projects be set aside for moderate- and low-income households. Acknowledging the surge of development moving down along New Jersey's Gold Coast, policymakers brought forth this legislation to ensure that, as Newark inevitably redevelops into a more economically prosperous urban center, the city concurrently provide a realistic opportunity to generate affordable housing. By placing affordability at the forefront of its concerns, Newark has thus demonstrated its commitment to equitable growth, but this Note principally argues that in isolation, the inclusionary zoning ordinance is more symbolic than it is effective upon analyzing its terms. Therefore, while a mandatory, city-wide inclusionary zoning program is a necessary first step, true integration in redeveloping cities can only be realized by enacting a combination of anti-displacement and equitable growth regulations tailored to the particular needs of its residents.

Part II of this Note begins by briefly tracing the post-World War II shift in housing preferences from cities to emerging suburbs before discussing the use of so-called exclusionary zoning to keep out the urban poor. It is within this context that Part II also discusses the progressive Mount Laurel doctrine, calling attention to the New Jersey Supreme Court's limited success in dismantling socioeconomic segregation in its suburbs. Mindful of these limitations, Part III then analyzes the efficacy of land use regulations as implemented within the context of urban revitalization. This analysis is conducted through the lens of Newark's inclusionary zoning ordinance, and argues that although such a tool is necessary at the outset of redevelopment, as presently constructed, the law will not be able to sufficiently protect its most at-risk residents or meaningfully add to the city's shrinking affordable housing inventory. This Note concludes in Part IV by highlighting other equitable growth policies, land use regulations, and legislative reform that can act in conjunction with inclusionary zoning ordinances to better address the affordability crisis and promote dynamic and diverse interactions between both present and future city residents.

I. Introduction

On June 21, 2017, the City Council of Newark, New Jersey voted to move and adopt on first reading Ordinance 17-0842.2 The ordinance, titled "Inclusionary Zoning3 for Affordable Housing," sought to amend Title 41 of the City's Municipal Code to require that at least twenty percent of new residential projects be set aside for moderate- and low-income households.4

Mayor Ras Baraka first introduced the proposal in February of 2017 when the boom in the real estate market along New Jersey's Hudson River "Gold Coast"5 finally began to push a new surge of development into Newark, which lies just a bit further south along the coastal commuter route to New York City.6 Recognizing that the state's largest municipality had become "'for the first time in more than a century ... a growing city,'" policymakers brought forth this legislation to ensure that, as Newark inevitably redevelops into a more economically prosperous urban center, the city concurrently provide a realistic opportunity to generate affordable housing.7 However, when councilmembers met on July 12, 2017, for a final vote, the efforts of housing advocates to curb gentrification and displacement fell short and the bill failed.8

Undeterred and in a fit of urgency, Mayor Baraka continued to press city officials to pass an inclusionary measure in order to avoid the mistakes of similarly-situated waterfront cities that developed with affordability as an afterthought. …

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