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On Wednesday at 10 am, the New Jersey Supreme Court will consider a request by Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities to allow towns to exclude low- and moderate-income families, seniors, and people with special needs, reversing four decades of court rulings. The argument is the most important fair housing case in New Jersey in 30 years.
You can watch the hearing live or afterwards here.
The argument is about upholding a practical and fair solution that’s good for communities, and good for business. A broad and unusual array of groups – ranging from Fair Share Housing Center to the NAACP and Latino Action Network to special needs organizations to New Jersey’s Catholic Charities to the Housing and Community Development Network, New Jersey Future, and the American Planning Association to the New Jersey Builders Association and other business groups – have asked the Supreme Court to affirm existing law and require that every municipality allow for its fair share of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people.
Over the last few weeks, planners, community leaders, special needs housing providers, and civil rights leaders all speak out on the importance of housing opportunities for all citizens of New Jersey.
The groups on the other side of the case – Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities – ask the Supreme Court to overturn four decades of fair housing law and risk the gains New Jersey, and the country, has made because of it. They would dismantle a system that a recent Princeton University study found has massive educational and economic impacts – such as a 25 percent increase in earnings and a 67 percent drop in welfare use.
More below the fold…
Over the past 30 years, more than 60,000 homes affordable to low- and moderate-income families, seniors, and people with special needs have been built in communities that otherwise would have excluded those homes. As a result, compared to states with similar land use policies, New Jersey had a much less rapid increase in housing prices – not just for lower-income families, but also middle-class families. More than 40,000 additional homes are scheduled to be built – all of which would be in jeopardy if the Supreme Court reverses Mount Laurel. That’s an economic issue – almost every major New Jersey business group urged Governor Christie to pursue a policy that would foster, rather than hinder, development of a wide range of housing choices for their employees.
Exclusionary zoning remains widespread in New Jersey today and would increase if the Supreme Court allowed it. A 2011 Rowan University analysis of exclusionary zoning in New Jersey shows that, in the fastest growing areas of the state, only 1-3 percent of residentially zoned land allows apartments and townhouses. Without Mount Laurel, even those areas would not exist.
Both North Jersey and South Jersey are among the top ten segregated areas in the United States – both by race and by economics. A brief submitted to the Supreme Court by the NAACP and Latino Action Network finds that Mount Laurel has had significant impacts on racial and economic integration in towns such as West Windsor and Mount Laurel itself. If the Supreme Court undermines the future of Mount Laurel, New Jersey will become even more racially and economically segregated.
New Jersey has seen increased housing discrimination against people with special needs over the past decade – from neighbors in Ridgewood fighting homes for people with Asperger’s Syndrome to an attempt to block homes for disabled veterans in Carneys Point. About 8,000 homes for people with special needs have been created because of Mount Laurel. 3,000 more are in the pipeline – and are at risk with Wednesday’s case.
Wednesday’s case is the most important fair housing case in New Jersey in 30 years. The stakes could not be higher for New Jersey’s working and middle class families, people with special needs, and seniors.