Fair Share Housing Urges Supreme Court to Rule on Affordable Housing to End Segregation
Recently in an article and interactive map, NJSpotlight highlighted that “Segregation Continues to be NJ’s State of the State.”
“New Jersey is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse states in the country — but it is also one of the most segregated. The reasons are complicated: former redlining of communities that haven’t changed their demographics since the middle of the 20th century; pockets of wealthy white families settling in the same tony communities; and a state housing policy that despite judicial intervention has stagnated and done little to address the issue.”
U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey data shows that New Jersey is one of the most segregated states in the country:
- 20 percent of New Jersey towns are at least 90 percent white;
- Three-quarters of residents in 60 percent of municipalities are white;
- But only 56 percent of New Jersey’s nearly 9 million residents were white in 2015,
- While 20 percent of New Jersey’s residents were Hispanic; 13 percent, black; and 9 percent, Asian
On November 30, 2016, housing and civil rights advocates and community and faith leaders gathered following a state Supreme Court hearing on affordable housing. Fair Share Housing Center had been leading the effort to urge the Supreme Court to force New Jersey’s municipalities to zone for 100,000 new apartments for low- and moderate-income residents over the next ten years.
“We joined together to call on the court to uphold decades of precedent to ensure that towns that have lagged in building homes must meet the needs of tens of thousands of working families, seniors and those with disabilities that accumulated during a 16-year gap period beginning in 1999,” wrote Fair Share Housing Director Kevin Walsh.
Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, said about New Jersey’s affordable housing requirements, “one of our most important tools to ensure New Jersey families, regardless of race, have the same opportunities.”
The Fair Share Housing Center, NAACP New Jersey State Conference, and the Latino Action Network filed a joint friend of the court brief “Asking the justices to require municipalities to provide for the housing need that accrued during the period between 1999 and 2015 when the state had no affordable housing regulations in place.”
New Jersey’s Mount Laurel Doctrine has had an impact on racially diversifying communities in the state.
“Where the Mount Laurel mandate has been implemented … it has reduced racial segregation and produced marked improvements in the lives of residents, many of whom are African American and Latino, who have the opportunity to move from blighted areas to live in communities of opportunity,” the groups’ brief states. On the other hand, “in part because of the inconsistent and incomplete implementation of the Mount Laurel mandate, housing segregation remains a critical issue in New Jersey today.”
The Mount Laurel Doctrine was issued 41 years go by the New Jersey courts and got its name because of the first cases were brought against Mount Laurel township by the Southern Burlington branch of the NAACP. Mount Laurel requires municipalities to adopt zoning for their “fair share” of the need for affordable housing within their region of the state.