Fair Share Housing Center

Blog

Preparing for 2010

Posted by Kevin Walsh on December 23rd 2009

Dear Friends and Supporters:

We write to share our thoughts about 2009; to urge you to go to our new website; and to ask for your support so we can continue our work in 2010.

As 2009 draws to a close, we look back on a year of successful advocacy that you supported on behalf of New Jersey’s lower-income households. But as we look forward to 2010, we have to prepare for continued efforts by many of New Jersey’s wealthiest towns, and perhaps the Governor-elect, to exclude lower-income families.

2009 was a year of tremendous activity for us. On the heels of the major changes to the state’s affordable housing compliance system brought by our victory in the 2007 Third Round appeals and the Legislature’s passage of the A-500 bill banning Regional Contribution Agreements in 2008, the year started with approximately 300 municipalities filing new fair share plans. With a team of our staff attorneys and numerous interns, we took on a seemingly impossible task for a tiny organization: analyzing every one of those plans to determine which ones provided a realistic opportunity for low- and moderate-income homes and which ones did not meet minimum legal requirements. From there, we were able to construct a comprehensive analysis of the plans which showed how, in this time of economic distress, the record number of municipalities meeting their housing obligations would assist with the economic recovery.

That analysis also has guided our strategy in which municipalities to engage in trying to push for better plans, which relies heavily on focusing affordable housing, especially for very-low-income families, close to job centers and transit corridors. Over the past year, we have been involved in dozens of municipalities that filed plans that did not meet minimum legal requirements, and we’re happy to say that we have successfully settled many of those cases. We have often worked in concert with local faith-based, non-profit, and civil rights groups in towns like Red Bank, Toms River, and Cranbury. As a result of our work over the past year, there are hundreds of additional units of affordable housing that will be built - in addition to the approximately 45,000 units in municipal fair share plans, most of which would not have happened without our litigation overturning the initial Third Round rules.

We have always believed that those who oppose equitable housing policies are loud but not the majority in New Jersey. So we were gratified when a Fairleigh Dickinson poll in March supported our belief, showing that 52 percent of New Jerseyans support the effort to provide housing for all income levels throughout the state with only 36 percent in opposition.

2010 will bring new challenges and questions with a new incoming Governor who has vowed to “gut COAH,” statewide policy debates on development near transit and land use policies, an expected decision from the Appellate Division on the various appeals of the new Third Round regulations, ours included, and over 50 towns with already approved Third Round plans and many more seeking approval. We are preparing for those challenges by building stronger partnerships with a wide range of supporters and continuing to get the message out that New Jerseyans support open communities and oppose draconian restrictions on starter homes and apartments. As the state’s only public interest organization defending the Mount Laurel doctrine, we stand ready to challenge any attempt to dilute the state’s constitutional obligations.

Our final event of the year was last week. We joined with several religious organizations in hosting Mary and Joseph at the State House. It was a great day that allowed us to link the Holy Family’s efforts to find a place to stay with the modern challenge faced by hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans. The message was well received by the press and the crowd that attended, but we were disappointed when the Governor-elect and his staff refused to allow Mary and Joseph to even enter the transition office.

You can see the coverage of the Mary and Joseph event by going to the media section of our new website.

We are proud of what we accomplished in 2009 and need your help to continue our work. We ask for your support now so we are prepared for what is sure to be an important year in making sure that low-income families have a place in all of New Jersey’s communities. Will you support us? To make a donation, please go here.

Happy Holidays!