NJ Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Fair Housing Case

Court grants Fair Housing Appeal Will Defend Legal Rights of Thousands

On September 8, 2016, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear an fair housing appeal to ensure that municipalities that had lagged in building homes must meet the needs of tens of thousands of working families, seniors and those with disabilities that accumulated during a 15-year period beginning in 1999.

In its appeal to the Supreme Court, Fair Share Housing Center, supported by more than 15 additional civil rights, disability rights and housing advocates, argued that a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division deviated from the course New Jersey had set for decades in determining how the state’s housing need should be measured.

Philly.com reported that,

“A reversal could increase by tens of thousands the number of Mount Laurel-type low- and middle-income housing units that the state’s 565 cities, townships, and boroughs must zone for by 2025.”

This raised the problem of continued delays for thousands of families who have waited years for homes in safe communities with access to good schools and employment opportunities. It also sent the message that towns would be rewarded for delaying, an unfair result for the many communities that have complied with the law.

The court also granted Fair Share’s request for a stay of the Appellate Division’s judgment in this case. This means that the rulings of four trial court judges requiring towns to meet their gap period obligations remain in effect.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court agreed to hear our appeal on an expedited basis,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center. “Thousands of New Jersey families have waited years for homes they can afford near jobs and good schools. The law is clear that towns are not permitted to simply erase their unmet housing obligations. We look forward to making our case before the Supreme Court and getting our state’s fair housing process back on track.”

A group of towns has argued that municipalities should not be responsible for meeting housing obligations that accrued during this period when New Jersey’s housing laws were not functioning properly, from 1999 to 2015.

During this time, New Jersey families were buffeted by a range of economic challenges, including the impacts of the Great Recession, a wave of casino closures and the state’s ongoing foreclosure crisis. Some towns moved forward and complied with their fair housing obligations.

Others attempted to evade their responsibilities, causing further racial and economic segregation in what is already one of the nation’s most segregated states, and making rents and home prices even more un-affordable.

The court will hold oral argument on this case in late November.