New Jersey’s “Mount Laurel” doctrine, which requires every municipality to provide its “fair share” of affordable housing, has long provided the interested builder-developer an opportunity to shape local zoning to meet business objectives as well as respond to social concerns. Because local governments sometimes fail to provide the constitutionally-required affordable housing opportunities, it is possible for a builder-developer willing to provide 15-20% of a development project as affordable housing to lower income households to obtain favorable zoning and access to necessary infrastructure.

In 2004, the state’s affordable housing agency, the Council on Affordable Housing, promulgated new rules which required most of the State’s communities to file affordable housing plans by December, 2005. Surprisingly, more than 30 communities failed to meet that requirement, and would be vulnerable to a builder’s remedy lawsuit.

Of the municipalities which did meet the deadline, it appears than more than a few did not take the requirement as seriously as they should, and are in danger of having their plans dismissed. Researching and following the progress of COAH as it sifts through the nearly 300 housing plans it has received will no doubt identify other municipalities which will be vulnerable to a builder’s remedy lawsuit.

Sills Cummis has been following this process very carefully. If you have any questions concerning affordable housing requirements in New Jersey, please contact Tom Hall, Chair of the Land Use and Zoning group at 973-643-5738.