Mercer County Superior Court Establishes Affordable Housing Obligations for West Windsor and Princeton
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued a 217 page decision and order on March 8, 2018 establishing the methodology and fair share affordable housing obligations for Princeton and West Windsor Township’s Third Round housing cycle. The decision follows a 40-day trial that took place between January and June of 2017.
Municipalities around the state that have yet to settle their cases have been awaiting this decision which outlines in detail the methodology used to calculate the number of affordable housing units that they will be obligated to satisfy should those cases proceed to trial. According to the Fair Share Housing Center there are more than 100 such towns.
The Mercer County case initially included eleven municipalities that filed declaratory judgment actions in 2015 seeking court approval of their Third Round Housing Elements and Fair Share Plans pursuant to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision Mount Laurel IV, 221 N.J. 1 (2015). The actions were consolidated by Judge Jacobson for the purposes of determining the affordable housing need. Six municipalities settled with the housing advocate Fair Share Housing Center, and three dismissed their complaints, leaving only Princeton and West Windsor in the consolidated case.
The affordable housing obligations are far greater than what these municipalities sought. Princeton’s new construction obligation is 753, with 365 attributed to the Prospective Need and 388 to Gap Present Need. West Windsor’s new construction obligation is 1,500, with 707 attributed to the Prospective Need and 793 to Gap Present Need. The Gap Present Need is the housing need arising in the sixteen year “gap” period between 1999 and 2015 when COAH failed to promulgate lawful Third Round Rules, and the Prospective Need being the 10 year period between 2015 and 2025.
In the coming months Princeton and West Windsor must create housing plans that provide a realistic opportunity to satisfy their affordable housing need. The plans will be considered at separate compliance hearings that Judge Jacobson scheduled for late July 2018.
Donna McBarron and Melissa Clarke also contributed to this post.