Thursday, July 17, 2008

Affordable Housing in the News

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Saying new affordable-housing obligations would force suburban towns to build beyond their capacity, a coalition of nearly 200 mayors said yesterday they would challenge the regulations in court.

The dispute centers on state rules, unveiled in December, that roughly doubled the affordable-housing requirements first proposed in 2004.

Local leaders say they have neither the space to build the amount of new housing the state demands, nor the money to pay for the associated classrooms, roads and sewers.

"What these regulations will do is turn the state into one large urban area," Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery said during a news conference in the Statehouse yesterday. "What these rules are saying is every piece of land in your town is going to be built to such density, and that's the key word here, density." . . .

The fight has become synonymous with Mount Laurel, named in the Supreme Court case that spawned the state's rules. Mayor John Drinkard said Mount Laurel would join the league's challenge and file its own suit against the latest regulations.

"We're not objecting to the [affordable-housing] obligation, what we're objecting to is the number and the way the state has gone about forcing this number down our throats," Drinkard said.

Mount Laurel could have to provide 1,400 affordable-housing units by 2018, according to the rules.

Affordable-housing advocates said the mayors were trying to avoid a constitutional obligation.

To me, the following was one of the more interesting passages in the article:

The league also argues that the latest requirements are based on faulty estimates of land available for new housing. For example, mayors said the projections include land marked for open-space preservation.

The conflict between legitimate concerns about open space and affordable housing is fascinating, and will increasingly feature in this kind of debate.  By "legitimate", I mean sincere concerns about open space, as opposed to pretextual concerns about open space that are really motivated by a desire to exclude certain people from a community.  It's really easy to tell the difference, right?

Ben Barros

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