Fair Share Housing Center was founded in 1975 after the landmark Mount Laurel I ruling that declared that all municipalities in New Jersey must provide their fair share of affordable housing. Our origin story, however, begins well before then and is rooted in community organizing, partnership, and resilience.
Like much of the country in the 1960s, Southern New Jersey experienced a period of white flight and gentrification with white people leaving cities like Camden and Philadelphia in favor of suburban towns like Mount Laurel. As Mount Laurel experienced an influx of wealthier white people, the town’s historically Black community was priced out of generational homes with no affordable housing options. In response, local community members formed the Springville Community Action Committee (SCAC) with the goal of buying and building affordable housing in Mount Laurel. Ethel R. Lawrence, a longtime Mount Laurel community member, spearheaded the SCAC’s efforts to receive zoning approval for the construction of 36 affordable homes.
To the community’s dismay, the zoning board denied the SCAC’s request and blocked their efforts to build affordable housing. Rather than backing down, the SCAC joined forces with the Southern Burlington NAACP, the Camden County NAACP, and lawyers from the Legal Services office in Camden. These community leaders and lawyers ultimately founded Fair Share Housing Center. Together they filed litigation against Mount Laurel and won, resulting in what is known today as the strongest framework to support affordable housing development in the nation: the Mount Laurel Doctrine.
Since the Mount Laurel I decision, we have continued to defend the Mount Laurel Doctrine and have expanded our portfolio to include local, state, and federal advocacy to safeguard access to affordable housing, advance equitable disaster relief and recovery systems, and close the racial wealth gap. At Fair Share Housing Center, our present work is informed by our past. We center those communities that are most harmed by our failing systems and discriminatory policies when we advocate for solutions. We have embodied the fighting spirit of organizers and leaders seeking to change racially and economically segregated communities since our inception, and we will continue that fight until there is housing justice for all.