BRIEFLY EXPLAIN THE RECENT NJ SUPREME COURT DECISION RELATED TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING OVERSIGHT.

After sixteen years without viable and constitutional regulations for Affordable Housing, the Supreme Court created new mechanisms to meet Affordable Housing goals. To really explain this issue, we need to go back for some history. In 1975 the Supreme Court said every municipality has an obligation to provide a reasonable opportunity for Affordable Housing. In other words, there needs to be a variety of choice in housing for residents and citizens of New Jersey at all income levels. In the eighties, the courts created a methodology to provide Builders’ Remedies, whereby builders who brought suit and established that municipalities engaged in exclusionary zoning would be granted the remedy of rezoning of their property for an inclusionary development, providing for a percentage of affordable housing within a market rate project. In response the legislature adopted the Fair Housing Act (FHA) whereby the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was delegated as the authority to create and enforce regulations concerning affordable housing. Since 1999, COAH has failed to act in a responsible manner to create those regulations—we’ve been without constitutionally satisfactory regulations for sixteen (16) years.


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The National Association of Homebuilders released a report, consistent with our predictions, indicating that approved lots ready for construction are a scarcity. 62% of builders indicate that the supply of developed lots is low or very low. This phenomenon, at record levels since at least 1997 when records were kept, is likely due to

As you are undoubtedly well aware, the March 10, 2015 ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court stripping the Council On Affordable Housing (COAH) of their oversight of the constitutional obligation of every municipality in New Jersey to plan for and accommodate affordable housing has effectively changed the rules for all of us.

The Rules

On March 10, 2015, setting aside the state’s “non-functioning” affordable housing process, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a ruling removing executive branch jurisdiction over low- and moderate-income housing and sent enforcement and oversight back to the trial courts. The ruling is the most significant action in 40 years, when the court originally established the so-called Mount Laurel doctrine, which held that municipalities must provide their “fair share” of affordable housing.

In many ways, the recent decision turns back the clock to a time when individuals, developers, and advocates had to sue to prevent municipalities from blocking approval of zoning for affordable housing development. Although generally regarded as unlikely, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) – the executive branch body tasked with setting fair housing obligations and approving municipal plans for meeting those obligations – still has the opportunity, as spelled out in the court’s decision, to reverse their inaction and set new rules.


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The New Jersey Supreme Court, after giving the administration countless opportunities to address the issue by other means (constitutional legislation or regulation), has now scheduled a motion by the Fair Share Housing Center to be heard by the Court on January 6, 2015. The motion seeks to enforce the previous order of the Supreme Court

As Chair of the Land Use Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and with the extensive efforts of the Section’s membership, we have advanced a position which opposes the latest round proposed COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) regulations as unconstitutional and in direct contravention of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s directive.
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The case of Advance at Branchburg II, LLC V. Township of Branchburg Board of Adjustment, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2013) dealt with the issue of whether a residential development could be treated as an inherently beneficial use when only approximately 20% of the development was utilized for affordable housing. The developer was seeking a d (1) use variance for a multi- family residential development consisting of 292 units, of which 59 would be affordable housing units. The developer argued that the inclusion of the affordable housing component rendered the entire development an inherently beneficial use.
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The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the Christie Administration along with the newly created Office of Recovery and Rebuilding released the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Action Plan resulting from the damage from Superstorm Sandy and the allocation of over $1.8 billion in the first phase of federal funding for cleanup, rebuilding and recovery.
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The real estate industry has seen a lot of changes over the past several years, and now, for those in the state of New Jersey, there is one more. In the matter of Fair Share Housing Center Inc. v. N.J. State League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Supreme Court took what at first blush might have been thought an unusual decision yesterday, declaring that the New Jersey League of Municipalities is a “public agency” possessing “government records” and therefore is subject to disclosure under the Open Public Records Act. The League is a nonprofit, unincorporated association representing all of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities, which includes over 13,000 municipal officials and over 560 mayors.
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