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Press Release: NJ Legislature Passes Landmark Affordable Housing Legislation; Gov. Murphy Expected to Sign Into Law


 

TRENTON – Today, the New Jersey Legislature approved landmark legislation (Bill S50/A4) to set a course for future enforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine, the state’s constitutional requirement for every town to provide its fair share of affordable housing. 

 

The Senate gave final approval to the legislation by a vote of 22-14. The Assembly, after initially approving the legislation last month, concurred with the Senate version today by a vote of 49-25.  Gov. Murphy, who urged passage of the bill in his recent Budget Address, is expected to sign it into law. 

 

The legislation would streamline the affordable housing development process for everyone involved by codifying the methodology used to determine affordable housing obligations — thus reducing judicial involvement and legal costs. Its primary sponsors are State Senator Troy Singleton and Senate President Nicholas Scutari, as well as State Assemblymembers Yvonne Lopez, Speaker Craig Coughlin, Benjie Wimberly, and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. 

 

Thanks to current enforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine by the New Jersey judiciary, the state is developing more affordable housing than ever before. Since 2015, when the New Jersey Supreme Court reinvigorated the Doctrine after decades of political obstruction, New Jersey’s annual affordable housing production has nearly doubled — providing housing to more than 50,000 people over the last eight years. But New Jersey still faces a significant gap in affordable homes — an estimated shortage of more than 230,000 homes, with 14 prospective renters for each vacant home. 

 

The Mount Laurel Doctrine was established through a series of watershed New Jersey Supreme Court decisions beginning in 1975 due to litigation brought by the Southern Burlington County and Camden County branches of the NAACP. Affordable housing obligations are based on population changes and growth in a region each decade. The current round of affordable housing obligations goes through 2025, at which point the Fourth Round of obligations will begin. 

 

“This legislation will help tear down the walls that have denied too many access to opportunity and create new affordable homes near jobs, schools, and transportation,” said Adam Gordon, Executive Director of Fair Share Housing Center. “It’s good news for families across the state who are struggling to keep up with the soaring cost of housing. We thank Senator Singleton, Assemblywoman Lopez, Speaker Coughlin, and Senate President Scutari for their tireless work to bring different stakeholders together through five public hearings and make this bill stronger. We look forward to Governor Murphy signing this critical reform into law.” 

 

"This legislation puts New Jersey on a path toward historic gains in affordable housing production over the next decade,” said Anita Wemple, President & CEO, Community Planning and Advocacy Council. “By codifying what has worked from the current court enforcement process, this legislation safeguards affordable housing for years to come.” 

 

"This legislation is a milestone for New Jersey and brings stability to one of the most important constitutional and human rights — the right to a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home," said Bishop Fred Rubin, pastor at Community Refuge Church in Manalapan, NJ. "Today’s vote is good news for the hard-working members of my congregation who are struggling to afford a roof over their heads.” 

 

"This legislation, which builds on New Jersey's historic Mount Laurel decisions, makes it clear that every town needs to provide housing for every socio-economic group in New Jersey," said Frank Argote-Freyre, Board Chair of the Fair Share Housing Center. "The working men and women whom we rely on to keep our society functioning deserve nothing less. The person who mows the lawn has as much right to live in town as the person whose lawn is being mowed." 

 

"As human beings, no matter our faith tradition or walk-of-life, we have the moral obligation to love and care for each other because at the core of everything we are all the same and need the same things: food to nourish our bodies and warm, safe shelter to protect our families,” said Charlene Walker, Executive Director of Faith in New Jersey. “There shouldn't be uncertainty around either of these things. We applaud the Senate for voting in favor of this housing bill so that New Jerseyans are able to access the most basic and precious of needs."  

 

"Affordable deed restrictions are a cornerstone in building generational wealth through homeownership, providing equitable access to housing opportunities and laying the foundation for economic stability across generations,” said Lori Leonard, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of South-Central New Jersey. “By abolishing COAH, there lies an opportunity to revise deed restriction language to allow for flexible terms based on funding source and amount. Fairer, more equitable terms ensure housing affordability while accommodating changing circumstances and preferences.” 

 

"Thank you to Senate President Scutari, Assembly Speaker Coughlin, Senator Singleton, Assemblywoman Lopez and all the legislators who championed this bill to help House NJ,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. “Our network includes over 275 members dedicated to the belief that housing is a human right and passage of this bill allows us to continue working towards making NJ a place everyone can afford to call home. We look forward to Governor Murphy signing S50/A4 without delay so that we can reverse our severe affordability deficit and build the healthy, affordable homes NJ needs efficiently and equitably." 

 

"This legislation will help provide a lot more clarity and transparency in the affordable housing development process," said Javier Robles, President of the Latino Action Network. "Skyrocketing housing costs are making it extremely difficult for many hard-working people and vulnerable communities — including seniors, people with disabilities, and caregivers — to keep a roof over their heads. This legislation will help ensure access to affordable, accessible, and livable homes, which not only improve the lives of residents but also benefit society." 

 

"Over the course of New Jersey’s history, fair housing policies have been integral in making our state more inclusive," said Jesselly de la Cruz, Executive Director of the Latino Action Network Foundation. "It is encouraging that residents, advocates and policymakers from across our state are joining forces to break down racial and economic exclusion by strengthening the Mount Laurel Doctrine." 

 

"We are thrilled to see the passage of S50 in the Senate.  This legislation positions New Jersey to create opportunities for every household in the state to thrive by creating a clear process to ensure all municipalities create their fair share of affordable housing,” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates.  “We at Monarch believe Housing is a Human Right and this legislation sets the stage to ensure every New Jersey resident has access to the housing they so critically need, in every community across the state, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.” 

 

"This legislation will create much-needed access to housing in the middle of a historic housing crisis. It will help overcome the deep segregation that has plagued our state for decades," said Mike McNeil, State Housing Chair of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.  "I particularly want to thank lawmakers for adding stronger deed restrictions to this legislation, which will protect the affordability of newly-built homes for decades to come.” 

 

“We applaud the Legislature for recognizing that the affordable housing crisis in New Jersey requires broad based, comprehensive and sustained intervention,” said Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice Program Director for New Jersey Citizen Action. “The legislation passed on the Senate floor today will strengthen the implementation of the Mount Laurel Doctrine and help ensure that New Jersey municipalities create their fair share of affordable housing. We urge Governor Murphy to sign it into law as soon as possible." 

 

"Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and their children. Affordable housing serves as a catalyst for breaking the cycle of violence and abuse. It offers survivors the stability necessary to access crucial support services — therapeutic interventions, legal aid, counseling — that are indispensable in their journey to recovery," said Cierra Hart, Director of Housing and Economic Justice at the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence. "We applaud the Legislature’s work to get this bill passed and look forward to it being signed into law." 

 

"We'd like to thank our legislative leaders for helping to make housing more accessible and affordable in New Jersey and our state more racially and economically integrated,” said Peter Kasabach, Executive Director at New Jersey Future. “With a streamlined and predictable process, towns will now be able to focus their energies on better local planning that leads to more mixed-use, mixed-income communities, where people have greater access to opportunities and can drive less and live more."  

 

"Expanding access to affordable housing will go a long way toward desegregating the state and creating stronger, healthier communities across New Jersey, " said Nicole Rodriguez, President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. "This legislation will not only help families in need of an affordable home, but also local governments so they have a clearer picture of their fair share obligation and a more efficient process to get new units built. We call on all lawmakers to stand with us in support of this critical measure, ensuring that we leave behind a legacy of progress and prosperity for generations to come." 

 

“Today is a historic moment for equity in New Jersey as Speaker Coughlin's landmark housing bill heads to Governor Murphy's desk,” said Antoinette Miles, state director, New Jersey Working Families Party. “We applaud the advocates and legislators who have worked so hard to tackle exclusion and ensure the creation of thousands of homes for working families near good schools and jobs.” 

 

"This legislation ensures that New Jersey will have one of the strongest affordable housing frameworks in the country. It's an important step toward addressing the denial of equal access to opportunity that has plagued our state for decades," said Eric Dobson, President of the United Black Agenda. "For Black residents, our state’s unprecedented housing affordability crisis is compounded by the historical impacts of residential segregation. The Mount Laurel Doctrine has helped achieve greater economic and racial integration across New Jersey, but we still have a long way to go." 

 

Key provisions in the legislation include: 

 

Streamlined Process – The Department of Community Affairs will provide initial guidance numbers for affordable housing obligations. A new Affordable Housing Dispute Resolution Program would provide mediation opportunities to municipalities to address concerns with the obligations and process. This includes clear timelines for each phase of the Mount Laurel certification process, including identification of the affordable housing obligation, adoption of a fair share plan, and adoption of final municipal zoning ordinances and related actions.  

 

Codification of Affordable Housing Obligation Methodology – Inclusion of a statewide method for each municipality to calculate their respective affordable housing obligation for the fourth round and beyond, based on the “Jacobson Methodology” adopted in 2018 that represented a middle ground between advocates and municipal positions. Codifying the methodology would allow municipalities to more effectively and efficiently determine their obligation without prolonged judicial involvement, while reducing legal costs associated with the affordable housing process. 

 

Increased Transparency  Requires more transparent information to be shared with the public at each stage of the process, from adoption of initial plans to what is built and what trust funds are available to non-profit developers to create and rehabilitate affordable housing. Includes regulatory updates on how affordable homes are built and occupied and how trust funds are expended that have not been updated in nearly 20 years.  

 

Repeal of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) – Removes COAH from statute. COAH became a defunct agency that failed to meet its mandate. As such, its removal will allow affordable housing to progress in New Jersey. 

 

No Regional Contribution Agreements – Maintains the ban on wealthy towns paying out of their obligations and requires every town to do its fair share. 

 

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Fair Share Housing Center is a nonprofit advocacy organization that uses legal, policy, and community-building strategies to dismantle decades of racial and economic discrimination in New Jersey and nationally that excludes people from the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, and affordable housing. 

 

 



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