TRENTON, NJ - A ruling by an Ocean County judge has promoted two Somerset County legislators to introduce a bill that clarifies the responsibilities of local governments regarding affordable housing requirements.

Sponsored by Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, the bill emphasizes that municipalities cannot be forced to meet retroactive affordable housing requirements because the Fair Housing Act does not impose such requirements.

The bill (S-2254) was drafted after an Ocean County court judge incorrectly concluded that municipalities’ affordable housing obligations should, in addition to present and future low and moderate income households, retroactively include those low and moderate income households created during the past 15 years, according to the legislators.

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Contrary to the court’s ruling, retroactive housing requirements are not mandated under the Fair Housing Act or the constitution. The clear departure from settled law necessitates the need for the legislation, according to Bateman and Ciattarelli.

“This bill will protect municipalities coping with this erroneous court ruling and ensure towns statewide do not fall victim to a potentially catastrophic legal precedent,” Ciattarelli (R-16th) said. “The last thing we need right now are convoluted and unnecessary regulations.

"What we truly need is keen focus on implementing real affordable housing reform," he added. "Bill S-2254 is an essential short-term solution. Enacting additional commonsense reforms, as outlined in our soon-to-be released omnibus reform bill, will give communities the authority and flexibility they need to provide enough affordable housing for those who need it most.”

The bipartisan bill was drafted in the wake of a court ruling that could set a dangerous precedent requiring towns statewide to include tens of thousands of more affordable housing units than they are obligated to provide under the Fair Housing Act.

“Municipalities need a clear set of guidelines for providing affordable housing,” Bateman (R-16th) said. “Instead, one court has handed down a misguided mandate that clearly violates established law. Far too many New Jerseyans are still struggling to find adequate housing. Municipalities are scrambling to understand and meet their housing obligations. It’s time to stop playing games in the courts and focus on enacting real, comprehensive affordable housing reform.”

Bateman and Ciattarelli also announced plans to sponsor an omnibus reform bill that would allow municipalities to administer their own affordable housing obligations, returning flexibility and autonomy to all communities.

Doing so will protect the environment and open space, ease the property tax burden and prevent costly construction in towns that are already battling overcrowding, according to the legislators.