Posted by Tom Hester May 21, 2007 11:29AM
A state appeals court today ruled that, like towns, state agencies have a constitutional obligation to provide affordable housing where they are responsible for planning and zoning.
The ruling is against the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, which wants to add 56,000 jobs to the Meadowlands without, critics argued, providing affordable housing for new workers. The decision is in response to an appeal brought by the New Jersey Builders Association and the non-profit Fair Share Housing Center.
A three-judge panel found the Meadowlands Commission “frustrates legislative policy and violates the state constitution.” It also found state agencies with a role in housing have a constitutional obligation to take “affirmative steps to ensure adequate affordable housing.”
The Meadowlands Commission argued it did not have an obligation to plan and zone for affordable housing in the 14-town district it covers. Rejecting that argument, the court found when “the state entrusts one of its agencies with complete control over the planning and zoning for affordable housing of a vast amount of land, approximately 21,000 acres, that agency is not free to “exercise its authority without taking affirmative steps to ensure adequate affordable housing.”
“This is a great victory for the hundreds of thousands of families who can’t afford New Jersey’s expensive housing market,” said Kevin D. Walsh, the attorney who argued the appeal for the Fair Share Housing Center. “Housing that is being built in the Meadowlands is close to jobs and transportation. If police officers, janitors, waitresses, and secretaries can work in the many office parks and malls being built in the Meadowlands, they should be able to live there with their families. This has been the law in New Jersey since 1975 and it shouldn’t have taken a lawsuit to make the Meadowlands Commission meet its clear legal obligations.”