NJ Gets More Time to Set Affordable Housing Rules
In a ruling that upset affordable housing advocates, New Jersey's highest court on Friday gave Gov. Chris Christie more time to adopt long-delayed requirements for affordable housing in every community.
The state Supreme Court said the state now has until Nov. 17 to adopt the new rules and have them published in the state register.
The 5-1 ruling, with Justice Barry Albin dissenting and Chief Justice Stuart Rabner abstaining, vacates a more ambitious schedule ordered by a lower court seven days earlier. That court, which gave the state Council on Affordable specific dates and times when it would have to meet, called for the rules to be completed in May and warned that council members who did not comply could be held personally responsible.
The new ruling acquiesced to the administration, which said the rules are in the works and can be approved by May 1. The emergency opinion Friday did not explain why the court accepted the state's stance, but it does include time for public comment and publication of the new requirements.
The ruling is the latest episode in a four-decade string of litigation over affordable housing in New Jersey. The courts have generally found that communities in the state have an obligation to provide for housing for lower-income residents. Those rulings are hailed as landmarks by liberals but seen as intrusions by many local officials and as unacceptable judicial activism by conservatives.
Christie, a Republican, attempted to dissolve the housing council entirely, but the Supreme Court said last year that he doesn't have the authority to do that. In September, the court ruled that the state had to have its new rules in place within five months -- a deadline it missed.
Even though Friday's ruling orders that new rules for towns be finalized this year, affordable housing advocates were upset.
"The state did nothing to earn this extension," said Kevin Walsh, a lawyer at Fair Share Housing Center. "It is clear that Gov. Christie will still try to interfere" with court mandates on affordable housing.
In his dissent, Albin agreed. "I would have agreed to the extension request if the state had presented an adequate explanation, rather than amorphous excuses without meaningful details, for not abiding by this court's Sept. 26, 2013 directive," he wrote.
(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)