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New Jersey Towns’ Foot Dragging on Affordable Housing Infuriates Justices, Punished a Two Generations

January 24, 2017

The NYTimes editorial board slammed the towns in New Jersey who have dragged their feet to respond to a court order issued over three decades ago. Their editorial in today’s paper describes a case that re-appeared before the court:

The original case dates back to the 1970s. when low-income, minority families found themselves priced out of Mount Laurel, a growing New Jersey suburb not far from Philadelphia, in part because local authorities had blocked construction of a modest affordable-housing development.

The community sued, and in the 1980s the court ruled that towns could not deny affordable housing and, beyond that, had an affirmative obligation to create zoning laws allowing for a “fair share” of affordable housing based on growth, job opportunities and income.

But guess what: rather than comply with the court order the towns went to court and elected officials who suffered and permitted their Fabian tactics to remain in place. As the editorial board noted, current Governor Chris Christie was so opposed to the findings of this decades-old case that he tried to dismantle the state agency charged with implementing fair housing.

Despite the foot-dragging of many affluent communities, the Times reported that the Mount Laurel suit did result in “...more than 80,000 homes that have improved the lives of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans.” Those politicians like Chris Christie who espouse the “pull-yourself-up-by-your-boot-straps” program as the best mens of addressing poverty should be complaining the loudest about this foot-dragging… but we now have a populist President who, like Mr. Christie, is intent on gutting the very agency that should be helping people improve their lives.  I would like to believe the fact that the original litigants were “low income minority families” has nothing to do with the foot-dragging or the resistance by the towns…. but I know from experience that racism is alive and well north of the Mason Dixon line as well as in the Deep South.

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