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FAIR SHARE HOUSING CENTER is a nonprofit advocacy organization that uses legal, policy, and community-building strategies to dismantle decades of racial and economic discrimination in New Jersey and nationally that excludes people from the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, and affordable housing.


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. 



In 1975, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the case of Southern Burlington NAACP v. Mount Laurel Township. This decision, known as Mount Laurel I, outlawed exclusionary zoning and required all New Jersey municipalities to provide their “fair share” of their region’s affordable housing. This landmark civil rights case established one of the strongest frameworks in the country to prevent and address residential segregation.


In 1983, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld its initial Mount Laurel I decision. This second ruling created new avenues to ensure compliance with the Mount Laurel Doctrine, including the builder’s remedy. Mount Laurel II also invited the legislature to draft legislation to implement the Doctrine.


The New Jersey Legislature passed the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in 1985 to implement the Mount Laurel Doctrine. The FHA established the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and an administrative process for towns to submit affordable housing plans to COAH. COAH became responsible for the oversight and compliance of the Mount Laurel Doctrine.


In 2008, after decades of work by FSHC and coalition partners, the Fair Housing Act was amended to eliminate Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA’s). RCA’s permitted wealthier towns to pay poorer towns to satisfy their affordable housing obligations, thereby undermining the Mount Laurel Doctrine. The 2008 amendments also expanded the definition of affordable housing to include the third category of very low-income housing.


In 2014 FSHC, the NAACP, and the Latino Action Network (LAN) won a complaint brought against the state of NJ and the Department of Community Affairs which alleged that the state engaged in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 following Superstorm Sandy. This victory marks FSHC's commitment to the reform of our federal disaster recovery system.


In 2015, after fifteen years of nonenforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine by COAH, the New Jersey Supreme Court held in Mount Laurel IV that the judicial system would be responsible for municipal compliance with the Mount Laurel Doctrine. Since 2015, as the legal entity designated to represent the interests of the public by the New Jersey Supreme Court, Fair Share Housing Center has entered into affordable housing settlement agreements with more than 340 municipalities throughout the state.


In 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the third round of affordable housing obligations should include the 15 year gap period when COAH did not enforce the Doctrine. This decision ensured that municipalities would be held accountable for their failure to meet their towns’ needs for affordable housing while COAH was a defunct state agency


In 2021, after fierce advocacy from FSHC and close partners, New Jersey passed the Fair Chance in Housing Act which prohibits landlords from discriminating against those with prior criminal legal system involvement during the housing application process.


In 2022, for the first time, the New Jersey Fiscal Year 2023 Budget included a line item of $305M specifically dedicated to the development of already approved affordable housing projects in Mount Laurel settlement agreements. This significant victory, secured through FSHC’s advocacy, will accelerate affordable housing development across the state. An anticipated 3,300 affordable homes will be built with this funding.