Court Decision Affirms Mount Laurel Doctrine
In a decision issued this morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the Mount Laurel doctrine, which limits the ability of municipalities to abuse their home rule powers. This decision will ensure that more supportive housing will be built for the homeless and those with special needs.
According to a press release prepared by Fair Share Housing Center:
The Court rejected Christie Administration attempts to eliminate the doctrine by relieving New Jersey’s wealthier municipalities of the obligation to meet regional housing needs. The Court’s decision requires the state’s municipalities to continue providing zoning for homes affordable to working families, people with special needs, and seniors on fixed incomes.
Kevin Walsh, the attorney for Fair Share Housing Center who argued the case, stated:
“The Supreme Court’s decision stops Gov. Christie and his administration from allowing wealthier municipalities to exclude working families and people with special needs. The Christie Administration has done everything it can to delay and block Mount Laurel from promoting development of affordable housing in New Jersey. We now have a final decision and look forward to more homes in communities throughout the state.”
Frank Argote-Freyre, President of the Latino Action Network said:
“The decision blocks Governor Christie’s efforts to prevent the construction of affordable homes in the State’s wealthiest communities. If you can build mansions in a community you can find space for homes for the working poor.”
Mike McNeil, Housing Chair of the NJ NAACP said:
“I’m happy that we are able to build more affordable homes for the poor and people with disabilities. I’ve experienced housing discrimination myself which is why I got into this fight, so this victory is especially meaningful for me. The Court has responded to a broad coalition of partners committed to fair housing.”
The Court found that the policies advocated by the Christie Administration were inconsistent with the Fair Housing Act of 1985 and the Mount Laurel doctrine. The Court gave the administration and Council on Affordable Housing five months to adopt new rules that comply with the Mount Laurel doctrine.
The case was before the Court at the request of a group of municipalities that, with support from the administration, appealed an appellate court decision that upheld the Mount Laurel doctrine. The appellate court rejected regulations that allowed municipalities to establish their own housing obligations by encouraging or discouraging development. Municipalities that wanted to exclude lower-income households could do so by simply refusing to allow residential and non-residential growth.
History has shown that many New Jersey municipalities abuse their home rule powers by discouraging the development of housing while encouraging other kinds of development, with the result that New Jersey’s housing prices are too high and there are too few homes for working families and people with special needs.
Click here to read the full decision.