In an effort to address one of New Jersey’s most pressing affordability and racial equity issues, Democrats in the State Legislature are introducing a groundbreaking bill to significantly expand affordable housing across New Jersey.
Sponsored by Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez and Senator Troy Singleton, the legislation creates a new and streamlined process to give municipalities greater flexibility to build affordable housing. It creates a neutral panel of experts to mediate conflicts about how much and where affordable housing should be built in order to reduce the costly and lengthy litigation that has delayed the building of new housing.
Since 2015, trial courts have been deciding affordable housing obligations for New Jersey communities after the State Supreme Court ruled that the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) was not capable of functioning as intended. This has led to lengthy, expensive conflicts that have crippled the state’s ability to ensure affordable housing is available for residents. The legislation would replace COAH with a statutory formula for determining obligations and a municipally-driven process for developing constitutionally required affordable housing. Rather than having disputes about the amount of housing that should be built go through court processes, the bill would establish mediation panels to quickly and efficiently arrive at the amount of housing needed and where it should be built in each municipality. Any municipality engaging in a good-faith effort to build the necessary amount of affordable housing would be temporarily immune from lawsuits brought by developers.
The bill is being introduced in advance of the next round of municipal affordable housing obligations, which begins on July 1, 2025. Under the legislation, a municipality must adopt its affordable housing obligation by binding resolution on or before January 31, 2025 in order to be assured of protection from a builder’s remedy lawsuit.