Thursday, March 8, 2007
To most of my law students, the year 1971 might as well be 1471 –- it was before they were born, in a world that seems radically different. So it’s strange to explain to them that the saga of New Jersey’s landmark exclusionary zoning litigation, arising from the town of Mount Laurel in south Jersey, is still going on, some thirty plus years later.
This week the New Jersey Builders Association plans to present an award in the memory of Ethel Lawrence, the late activist who helped spur the Mount Laurel litigation, which established the principle that each locality in the state must take steps to provide for its “fair share” of low-cost housing. The goal was, first, to dismantle zoning laws that exclude low-cost housing and, second, to require localities to take affirmative steps to spur the construction of low-cost housing. In the 1980s, the court-made duty was replaced by code and the establishment of a state Council on Affordable Housing.
Earlier this year, a New Jersey court struck down many aspects of recent COAH regulations; one provision required each locality to create one low-cost housing unit for each eight units created by the market. One problem with this approach, challengers asserted, is that imposes little or no requirements on localities in which there is little new market housing construction. The saga continues …