Housing advocates are hailing a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that upholds the state's affordable housing law. The decision today says current rules used by municipalities are too flexible and allow officials to skirt requirements to build cheaper homes.
The state's high court ruled in a 3-2 decision that the current "growth share" rules aren't specific enough. Those rules have allowed towns to opt out of the affordable housing requirement if they can prove there's been no job growth or if there's been no increase in housing units.
"The present regulations premised on a growth share methodology cannot be sustained," the majority opinion, in favor of striking down the current rules, stated .
The court gave the state five months to come up with a better plan. Either the state can return to the older formulas that were monitored by the courts or have lawmakers come up with a new way to determine how to set aside affordable housing units in each town.
The decision is a setback for Gov. Chris Christie, a proponent of the growth share rules. He has called the landmark Mount Laurel decision, which created the affordable housing requirements in New Jersey, an "abomination" and has tried to close the state office that administers the program. The governor's office had no comment.
But housing advocates say the ruling is it the most important court decision on affordable housing in 30 years.
"The Supreme Court’s decision this morning is a tremendous victory for working families, people with special needs for people who have trouble affording New Jersey’s expensive housing market," said Kevin Walsh executive director of the Fair Share Housing Center, a housing advocacy group that was one of the plaintiffs in the case.