Affordable Housing - Senate Adopts S1

The NJ Senate adopted S1 a comprehensive reform of the Fair Housing Act, N. J. S. A. 52:27D-301 et seq.   S1 sponsored by Sen. Lesniak, passed the Senate by a vote of 28-3, with 9 senators not voting (click link for press release).  S1 is eliminates the Council on Affordable Housing ("COAH") and delegates the responsibility to monitor municipal affordable housing compliance to the State Department of Community Affairs. DCA's function will be only the review of municipal housing data and compliance with S1's standards for municipal housing compliance, with no mediation or other dispute resolution power. 

S1 creates a legislative presumption of compliance regarding the Mt. Laurel constitutional obligation. The presumption of validity would apply to all municipalities where (1) there are at least 33% multifamily units as a percentage of the entire municipal housing stock or (2) 7.5% deed restricted affordable  housing as a percentage of municipal housing stock. 

The Bill does not take into account municipal zoning ordinances and does away with the concept of zoning providing a realistic opportunity for the creation of a municipalities fair share of the regional affordable housing need.  In fact, S1 expressly eliminates any consideration of regional housing obligations and fosters the pre Mt Laurel I concept of zoning as having to only consider the universe that exists within the municipal boundary, as if each of New jersey's 566 towns exists on an island isolated from the greater regional economy.


S1 is unconstitutional on its face 


The Bill has drawn extensive criticism from affordable housing groups, who correctly claim that S1 will result in less affordable housing opportunities than under the present COAH process.  This Bill is so seriously flawed that it is highly unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny, as demonstrated by teh NJBA analysis of the Bill. If adopted, the result of S1 will be more litigation and more delay in the creation of decent affordable housing, at a time when affordable housing is in great demand, given the Great Recession's impact on employment.


We will keep you apprised of the Legislature's consideration of S1 and the court actions that will inevitably follow... stay tuned.

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