New advancements in the fight for N.J. fair housing
Posted by Laura Denker on December 8th 2016
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I’m writing to let you know about important new developments that have occurred since our appearance before the New Jersey Supreme Court last week.
During that hearing, we joined with a coalition of leading civil rights advocates, faith and community leaders to call on the court to reject a series of extremist arguments that would exclude tens of thousands of New Jersey families from access to a permanent home in a safe neighborhood.
You can watch video of oral argument by clicking here.
In the week since, two leading newspapers published editorials calling on towns to follow the New Jersey Constitution by working with advocates and developers to get new housing built for families.
On Tuesday, The Star-Ledger pointed out that towns had previously agreed to meet the fair housing needs of New Jersey residents which accrued beginning in 1999, when the Council on Affordable Housing ceased to function. Yet faced with the opportunity to finally follow through on its obligations, a group of towns, including Barnegat, is now asking the court to ignore decades of precedent by pretending the need doesn’t exist.
“More than 85 towns reached agreements with fair housing advocates and developers to build more than 28,000 units; including the biggest suburbs in the state,” the editorial noted. “Barnegat is reneging on its 2008 promise to meet its affordable housing obligations because, thanks to the high court’s ruling last year, it will now actually have to build these homes. And it is asking the Supreme Court to go along with this, and make a mockery of its own previous ruling. You have to admire the gall.”
And the Bergen Record, in a December 1 editorial, noted that “in all these decades since Mount Laurel, true and lasting affordable-housing reform for thousands of working-class and lower-income New Jerseyans has been nothing more than a dream. In those 17 years, poor people did not suddenly stop being poor, and, in fact, many working-class families saw their economic prospects worsen.”
Both editorials also pointed to the fair housing settlements we have reached with towns across the state as evidence that a consensus is developing among towns that they can and should meet their obligations.
This point was further driven home by a front-page story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, which highlighted our recent landmark settlement with Mount Laurel Township, where our struggle for fair housing began four decades ago.
The “wall between New Jersey’s affluent and poor neighborhoods may at last be crumbling,” observed reporter David O’Reilly, detailing an agreement that will lead to hundreds of new homes being built for working families, seniors and those with disabilities.
And another recent front-page story in The Asbury Park Press points to the extreme pent-up demand for affordable and safe housing along the Jersey Shore. Reporter Karen Yi profiled several non-profit housing developers preparing to expand access to working families and people with disabilities thanks to recent settlement agreements signed in Ocean County.
As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling on the gap period case, we will continue to press towns to meet their constitutional obligations to New Jersey families.
Please consider making a contribution to support our work. Your support makes our work possible .
Executive Director, Fair Share Housing Center