Judge Jacobson also rejected many of the arguments a group of towns was using to artificially reduce their housing obligations.
The court’s ruling follows a series of unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decisions beginning in 2015 that jumpstarted our state’s fair housing process by breaking through a 16-year bureaucratic logjam in Trenton preventing proper enforcement of these laws. The justices turned over enforcement of New Jersey’s fair housing laws, known as the Mount Laurel doctrine, over to the trial courts.
“Judge Jacobson’s decision recognizes the very substantial need for homes for working families and people with disabilities in New Jersey,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center. “This ruling sends a strong message to any town still seeking to exclude working families that they won’t succeed. While we are still examining the impact of this decision and disagree with some of the ruling, this decision is the latest development in a process that is laying the groundwork for tens of thousands of new homes to address New Jersey’s housing affordability crisis.”
Judge Jacobson’s ruling applies directly to two Mercer County towns, Princeton and West Windsor, that do not have fair housing settlements in place. The decision may impact more than 100 municipalities that have not settled and where methodology trials like the one that lead to today’s decision may still be held. More than 190 municipalities have already reached settlements that will expand opportunities for families to live in safe neighborhoods, close to good schools and jobs.
Towns that have already reached settlements – including Hamilton, Ewing, Hopewell, Mount Laurel, Woodbridge, Edison, Metuchen, and Bridgewater – have pledged to pursue the redevelopment of vacant strip malls, office parks and industrial sites into vibrant new communities and revitalize the state’s many historic downtowns by increasing access to transit. They have also pledged to work with local non-profits seeking to build new homes that will allow people with disabilities to receive the support they need to live near their friends and family.
“This ruling is a victory for lower-income and minority families across New Jersey,” said Walsh. “Judge Jacobson’s decision will give opportunities for thousands of lower-income and minority families to move into safe neighborhoods, send their children to good schools, and work at jobs where they live instead of traveling hours commuting each day. The exclusionary policies that will fall as a result of this ruling harm our whole state, especially African American and Latino communities.”