Christie and Affordable Housing Advocates Continue Debate
“The best way to do it is to provide affordable housing in towns that have good schools, that have access to employment and to provide enrichment to children in a positive setting, and that’s what we’ve tried to do in Mount Laurel,” says Peter O’Connor, director of Fair Share Housing Development, Inc., which built an 140 unit affordable housing complex in South New Jersey.
O’Connor was quoted in a May 7, 2012 new story by WNYC reporter Nancy Solomon which examined the debate around the Mount Laurel decisions and COAH.
As background, the 1975 and 1983 Mount Laurel decisions found that the New Jersey town’s “zoning laws were unconstitutional – and the court ruled that all municipalities in the state must provide low- and moderate-income house.” And these rulings are coming back to the court for the first time in 20 years because of a challenge to the number of units required by each town. The Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) determines the requirement and the 2008 change to its methodology is being challenged in court.
Governor Chris Christie opposes COAH and instead prefers for municipalities to follow a voluntary system to create supportive housing but, advocates fear that a voluntary system would mean that towns would feel no mandate to create affordable housing. While COAH has had its problems, it has sparked the creation of affordable units that would never have been built had it not been for the agency. And those units are now homes to individuals and families who might otherwise be homeless.
“I don’t think it would have happened without the Mount Laurel decision. So while COAH itself has difficulties, it has produced a number of housing units, and these are for people who are working in our state, they don’t have anyplace to live, they’re bringing up families, and they deserve to have some housing.”
To back their support of affordable housing requirements, housing advocates now have the findings of a new Princeton study that shows that ”residents of a controversial affordable housing complex in Mount Laurel, N.J., have a better quality of life than those who applied but never moved into the complex”
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