During a five-hour hearing before the state Supreme Court last week, affordable-housing advocates made a strong case that regulations from the court's 1983 ruling should remain the law. Under those rules, the Council on Affordable Housing mandates the minimum number of lower-cost units municipalities must have.
New Jersey's towns were supposed to add 115,0000 new affordable-housing units by 1999. But that date kept getting pushed back. The new deadline is 2015.
Despite the decades-long push to do better, New Jersey, with one of the nation's wealthiest populations, remains one of the most economically segregated places in America, with high concentrations of poverty in its urban centers.
The lack of affordable housing doesn't just affect the poor. Firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other professionals can't afford to live where they work. The same goes for young adults, who have to move away from communities where they grew up.
Christie and the municipalities want to replace the current housing regulations with an untested formula that would use growth as a trigger to determine housing obligations. Using that system, a town could simply stop growing to avoid building affordable housing.
The proliferation of senior housing in the state shows towns prefer residents who won't greatly increase their costs to provide schools and other services. In fact, New Jersey already has so many senior-housing units that it will take 16 years to fill them.
Meanwhile, the poor can't find enough affordable places to live. Without tough rules, many towns will remain exclusive enclaves where only the affluent are welcome. That would be a shame, and the court shouldn't let it happen.