SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ - Warren Township has provided the following update on affordale housing that includes Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson's recent ruling in a Mercer County case involving Princeton and West Windsor. It is of particular importance and is expected to influence Fair Share Housing negotiations across the state.
Judge Jacobson clarified the various factors (including, existing household size and wealth, projections of job opportunities and population growth, and calculations of acreage available for development) that were to be weighed in determining Princeton's and West Windsor's affordable housing obligations. The Judge's 217-page ruling sets the standards for courts to assess whether a town's agreement with Fair Share Housing Center passes legal muster.
For more than three decades, the state has endeavored to force all New Jersey's 565 municipalities to provide more housing for low- and moderate- income families. The Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was created by the legislature in 1975 to manage that effort and guide towns in meeting its affordable housing goals.
Over the decades, COAH had some success, but confusion over the rules and administrative conflicts with other state agencies led to municipal inaction, opposition and lawsuits, ultimately leading to COAH's demise.
In 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined COAH had failed and that the courts would oversee towns' affordable housing obligation going forward. The High Court set deadlines for towns to negotiate with the nonprofit housing advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, also founded in 1975. Over the years, Fair Share Housing had often litigated against towns to force the development of affordable housing.
Since 2015, the courts have approved quite a few municipal agreements negotiated with Fair Share Housing. In other cases, Warren Township's being one, negotiations with Fair Share Housing have progressed more slowly as towns have waited for the courts to clarify the process to determine a municipality's affordable housing obligation.
Read the entirety of the Judge's decision here.