March 10, 2015 - The New Jersey Supreme Court decision today in In re Adoption of N.J.A.C. 5:96 & 5:97 is a victory for balanced planning aimed at the inclusion of households of all income levels in our communities. The decision allows low- and moderate-income families and their advocates to challenge exclusionary zoning in court, rather than having to wait for the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) to issue rules that may never come.
Following a Supreme Court decision in September 2013 invalidating yet another iteration of rules COAH had issued to enforce the state constitution and the Fair Housing Act, COAH failed to adopt revised rules at all, let alone rules that complied with the court's decision. The court notes that, at oral argument on the motion that led to today's order, the attorney general conceded that COAH does not have any plans to meet further in an effort to adopt valid rules.
Even before this standstill, New Jersey Future, the American Planning Association-New Jersey Chapter (APA-NJ), and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey had filed a friend-of-the-court brief calling for an end to the prolonged wait for COAH to fulfill its duties. "COAH's now 15-year-long failure to promulgate adequate rules has inhibited the state's economic growth and undermined sound planning principles," said Peter Kasabach, executive director of New Jersey Future. The organizations' most recent amicus brief follows an earlier one they filed in the 2013 case.
In the face of COAH's continued recalcitrance, the Supreme Court ordered today that advocates for affordable homes may go to court without waiting for further action from COAH. After a 90-day period to prepare for the transition, municipalities that fail to zone for the inclusion of residences affordable to low- and moderate-income families may face litigation.
"As a result of this decision, more of our hardworking residents, seniors, and people with disabilities will have the opportunity to live in homes they can afford in communities of their choice. Creating affordable homes will help our economy and our residents thrive," said Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. "Perhaps New Jersey can finally get on with the essential work of ensuring a diverse and affordable housing stock for one of the most diverse states in the nation. Only good can come from that," added Charles Latini, President of the APA-NJ.
Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future, 609-954-7422
Staci Berger, President and Chief Executive Officer, Housing & Community Development Network, 732-406-7604
Charles Latini Jr., President, American Planning Association-New Jersey Chapter, 212-203-5137
Catherine Weiss, Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler, 973-597-2438
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