Mercer County Judge Mary Jacobson has issued a ruling that upholds a previous judicial finding that West Windsor and Princeton must meet certain fair housing obligations.
Jacobson’s ruling effectively creates a standard for more than 100 towns throughout New Jersey still looking to reach affordable housing settlements. The ruling follows a 2015 decision by the state Supreme Court, which declared the Council on Affordable Housing defunct and transferred the enforcement of fair housing laws to the trial courts.
Additionally, Jacobson’s ruling coincides with another state Supreme Court ruling, which said municipalities in New Jersey must factor “gap-years” of 1995-2015 in calculating affordable housing needs.
"Judge Jacobson's decision recognizes the very substantial need for homes for working families and people with disabilities in New Jersey," said Kevin Walsh, executive director of the Fair Share Housing Center, in a March 8 statement on Jacobson’s ruling.
"This ruling sends a strong message to any town still seeking to exclude working families that they won't succeed,” Walsh said. “While we are still examining the impact of this decision and disagree with some of the ruling, this decision is the latest development in a process that is laying the groundwork for tens of thousands of new homes to address New Jersey's housing affordability crisis."
The ruling applies directly to Princeton and West Windsor, which do not have a fair housing settlements in place. This latest judicial decision marks a victory for the Fair Share Housing Center, plaintiff in the suit against Princeton and West Windsor.
According to Fair Share Housing—a non-profit advocate for low- and moderate-income housing—the ruling is likely to have broad implications for other municipalities.
"Judge Jacobson's decision will give opportunities for thousands of lower-income and minority families to move into safe neighborhoods, send their children to good schools, and work at jobs where they live instead of traveling hours commuting each day,” Walsh said. “The exclusionary policies that will fall as a result of this ruling harm our whole state, especially African American and Latino communities.”