In 1975 the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in South Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel, which decision has shaped the issue of affordable housing in New Jersey ever since.
That decision, and a subsequent decision in 1983, determined that every municipality in New Jersey has an affirmative obligation to provide for affordable housing within its boundaries. It also led to the adoption of the State’s Fair Housing Act in 1985 and the creation of the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), which became the state agency responsible for overseeing the manner in which municipalities address their low and moderate income housing obligations.
COAH initially adopted affordable housing regulations and housing-need numbers for municipalities for the years 1987 through 1999, but following 1999, they utilized a different approach to determining affordable housing need which resulted in legal challenges, with the Courts continually invalidating their various approaches ever since. Finally, in 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that COAH had become “dysfunctional” and had the Courts take over the process.
Since then, two groups – one representing a consortium of municipalities and one representing the Fair Share Housing Center, a housing advocacy group – have prepared affordable housing-need numbers for all municipalities in the State. The two groups’ numbers for the Town of Boonton are wildly divergent. For example, for the period encompassing years 1999 through 2025, the
consortium’s experts have determined that Boonton has an affordable housing obligation of five units, whereas Fair Share Housing Center’s experts have determined that Boonton has an affordable housing obligation of 402 units for the same period. The numbers set forth by these two groups have been the subject of court cases throughout the State over the past two years, and no final decisions on these numbers have yet to be made. However, irrespective of these numbers, the Courts do allow municipalities that are fully developed, such as Boonton, to seek an adjustment from these preliminary determinations based on the fact of their lack of vacant, developable land.
The Town of Boonton has engaged Burgis Associates, Inc. (www.burgis.com) to prepare an Affordable Housing Plan that identifies the Town’s realistic development potential based on the Town’s lack of developable property, and how it may address an ‘adjusted determination’ of affordable housing-need. Burgis Associates, Inc. is an award winning community planning firm with a wealth of experience in the area of affordable housing. The firm and its planners have been actively involved in this issue since the New Jersey Supreme Court rendered its initial Mount Laurel decisions and has, to date, prepared plans for more than seventy-five communities. Additionally, the firm’s president and principal planner, Joseph Burgis, a recognized state expert, has been appointed Court Master in numerous cases regarding affordable housing, where he is charged with assisting courts in evaluating the viability of municipal housing plans.