From the WSJ:
New Jersey towns and cities must accommodate unmet affordable-housing needs, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in a unanimous decision that could greatly expand housing options for the state’s low- and moderate-income residents.
In a 6-0 decision written by Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, the Supreme Court ruled that towns and cities are constitutionally required to allow enough affordable housing to be built to satisfy needs that arose during a 16-year period when a state agency charged with enforcing housing laws failed to do its job.
“Municipal responsibility for a fair share of the affordable housing need of low- and moderate-income households formed during that period was not suspended,” Justice LaVecchia wrote.
New Jersey’s Council on Affordable Housing was created in 1985 to monitor and enforce constitutionally mandated affordable-housing requirements, but the agency has been plagued by bureaucratic and legal problems since 1999. In 2015 the state Supreme Court stripped it of its powers after determining that it had failed to enforce state housing laws.
The case was brought by the southern shore town of Barnegat, which had argued that it was unfair to hold towns and cities responsible for affordable-housing requirements that accrued between 1999 and 2015 when the state failed to enforce them. Barnegat was joined by nearly 300 other municipalities.
Kevin Walsh, executive director for the affordable housing advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, said his analysis shows that about 200,000 affordable housing units are needed to fulfill obligations spanning from 1999 to 2025, but the exact number likely will be worked out through litigation.
“The municipalities don’t have to build the homes, the municipalities don’t have to fund the homes,” Mr. Walsh said. “All the municipalities have to do is remove the local red tape that prevents starter homes and apartments from being built.