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Court orders release of secret housing report

Posted by Anthony Campisi on July 17th 2017

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

New Jersey residents and fair housing advocates won a legal victory in the fight for transparency today, when the Appellate Division ordered the release of a secret housing report this morning.

A group of towns have been fighting for nearly two years to prevent disclosure of the taxpayer-funded housing report, which was compiled by Rutgers University professor Robert Burchell for towns across New Jersey seeking to minimize their housing obligations.

A two-judge appellate panel ruled that these towns had waived their right to keep the report a secret and couldn’t arbitrarily decide to keep it out of the hands of housing advocates – particularly because it has been shared with hundreds, if not thousands, of municipal officials, attorneys and planners across New Jersey.

The planners advising courts across the state about municipal fair housing obligations have had access to the report – but the judges designated by the New Jersey Supreme Court to hear these cases haven’t been able to review it.

“It would actually be unfair, under those circumstances, to deny FSHC access, if not to the opinions, to at least the information upon which it was formulated,” the court wrote. The court’s ruling clears the way for the public to finally learn how this report has influenced the arguments of towns and developers across the state and will ensure a level playing field for advocates seeking to expand housing opportunities for working families, seniors and those with disabilities.

Today’s ruling affirms a decision by retired Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Douglas K. Wolfson, who last year ordered the municipalities to turn over this information to housing advocates.

You can read a copy of today’s decision here.

Sincerely,

Kevin D. Walsh, Executive Director, Fair Share Housing Center