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Assembly Housing Committee Approves Major Affordable Housing Legislation

December 20, 2023

Contact: Jag Davies, 786-393-8100,

Assembly Housing Committee Approves Major Affordable Housing Legislation

Bill Would Update Enforcement of the Mt. Laurel Doctrine, NJ’s Groundbreaking Affordable Housing Model


TRENTON – Today, the NJ Assembly Housing Committee approved legislation to set a course for future enforcement of the Mount Laurel Doctrine, the state’s constitutional requirement for every town to provide its fair share of affordable housing.  The vote came on the heels of a press conference held Monday by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, Senate President Nicholas Scutari, Senator Troy Singleton, and Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez to announce the introduction of this legislation (A4/S4251). 


The legislation would streamline the affordable housing development process for municipalities and everyone involved. It codifies the methodology used to determine each municipality’s affordable housing obligations — which avoids prolonged judicial involvement and reduces municipalities’ legal costs.


The Mt. Laurel Doctrine was established through a series of watershed New Jersey Supreme Court decisions beginning in 1975. Affordable housing obligations are based on population changes and growth in a region each decade. The current round of affordable housing obligations go through 2025, at which point the Fourth Round of obligations will begin.


Thanks to current enforcement of the Mt. Laurel Doctrine by the New Jersey judiciary, the state is developing more affordable housing than ever before. Since 2015, when the New Jersey Supreme Court reinvigorated the Doctrine after decades of political obstruction, New Jersey’s annual affordable housing production has nearly doubled — providing housing to more than 50,000 people over the last eight years. 


At today’s hearing, advocates emphasized that the success of the Mt. Laurel framework is predicated on strong enforcement by the courts and state government — which hasn’t always been the case. From the mid-’90s until 2015, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a state agency created in 1985, refused to do its job and enforce the Mt. Laurel Doctrine. This period of non-enforcement is largely responsible for the significant gap in affordable housing units in New Jersey today — an estimated shortage of more than 230,000 homes.


“By streamlining the process for developing affordable housing, this legislation would avoid prolonged legal battles and reduce municipal spending,” said Adam Gordon, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center, who testified at today’s hearing along with over a dozen other stakeholders who spoke in support of the bill. “Housing shortages hurt everyone in our state — shrinking our labor supply and handicapping our economic growth. Since 2015, New Jersey has taken bigger steps than ever before to create affordable homes — but there’s still much more work to do.”



Priority concepts in the legislation include:


Streamlined Process – Appointment of up to three regional Special Masters will be appointed by the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, who will address initial guidance numbers for affordable housing obligations. Appointment of Special Masters for each region would provide mediation opportunities to municipalities to address concerns with the obligations and process. This includes clear timelines for each phase of the Mount Laurel certification process, including identification of the affordable housing obligation, adoption of a fair share plan, and adoption of final municipal zoning ordinances and related actions. 


Codification of Affordable Housing Obligation Methodology – Inclusion of a statewide method for each municipality to calculate their respective affordable housing obligation for the fourth round and beyond, based on the “Jacobson Methodology” adopted in 2018 that represented a middle ground between advocates and municipal positions. Codifying the methodology would allow municipalities to more effectively and efficiently determine their obligation without prolonged judicial involvement, while reducing legal costs associated with the affordable housing process.


Increased Transparency – Requires more transparent information to be shared with the public at each stage of the process, from adoption of initial plans to what is built and what trust funds are available to non-profit developers to create and rehabilitate affordable housing. Includes regulatory updates on how affordable homes are built and occupied and how trust funds are expended that have not been updated in nearly 20 years. 


Repeal of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) – Removes COAH from statute. COAH became a defunct agency that failed to meet its mandate. As such, its removal will allow affordable housing to progress in New Jersey.


No Regional Contribution Agreements – Maintains the ban on wealthy towns paying out of their obligations and requires every town to do its fair share.


“Access to affordable housing in vibrant communities, with strong schools and employment opportunities, addresses so many other problems at their root,” said Fair Share Housing Center’s Director of Racial Justice Policy, James C. Williams, who also testified at today’s hearing. “Over the course of New Jersey’s history, fair housing policies have been integral in making our state more inclusive. The Mt. Laurel framework must be safeguarded and strengthened to meet the current housing challenges facing our state’s families.”

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.

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