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New income eligibility agreement a statewide model

Posted by Laura Denker on December 21st 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Douglas K. Wolfson approved an agreement last week that sets new income eligibility limits for the homes which will be built or preserved in East Brunswick as part of the township’s recently approved Housing Element and Fair Share Plan.

The agreement, reached between Fair Share Housing Center, East Brunswick Township and local developers, will enable the proper implementation of the Fair Housing Act and the Mount Laurel doctrine by assuring that existing and new affordable homes will be targeted to families eligible for the homes. Judge Wolfson’s order and opinion explains how this process properly implements the Council on Affordable Housing’s longstanding income-limit methodology in light of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s direction in last year’s Mount Laurel IV decision.

Since the passage of the New Jersey Fair Housing Act in 1985, COAH had been tasked with updating income eligibility limits each year in responses to changes in household median income across the state.

Yet COAH has not performed this task since 2014, as part of its general failure to carry out its legal duties. This potentially endangers the ability of thousands of families to qualify for affordable housing assistance in the coming decade.

The East Brunswick agreement requires the township to utilize a similar procedure as COAH used to determine income eligibility and also requires that these guidelines be updated annually to take into account demographic changes. The agreement also address increases in rent and sales prices for homes that are part of the township’s fair share plan.

Although Judge Wolfson’s order is only initially binding on East Brunswick, we hope that it will serve as a model that can be easily adopted throughout the state.

This agreement sets a uniform standard that can provide certainty to towns, builders, landlords, advocates and families.

We stand ready to work with other towns in implementing this approach as the legal process continues.

We thank the attorneys, planners and municipal leaders involved in the East Brunswick settlement for their work to set this statewide model, as well as the Affordable Housing Professionals of New Jersey for bringing to the forefront the importance of resolving this issue.

You can read the consent order approved by Judge Wolfson here.

You can read Judge Wolfson’s opinion here.

Sincerely,

Kevin Walsh, Executive Director, Fair Share Housing Center