The current administrative iteration of the Mount Laurel doctrine presents a familiar problem of local government law: when should the state defer to its constituent municipalities’ zoning choices, and when should the state tell those municipalities what to build?
The Mount Laurel doctrine has both modified and been modified by the political and geographical landscape of New Jersey. The doctrine morphed from a judge-made constitutional command, to a litigation remedy, to a legislative edict, to an administrative matrix. To many who initiated and inspired the Mount Laurel movement in New Jersey, the present form of the law barely resembles the civil-rights-inspired rulings of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the 1970’s. What was a command that towns shall not use exclusionary zoning, and then that towns must provide inclusionary zoning, has become an administrative miasma to those on all sides of the issue. Despite this controversy, Mount Laurel has not been a failure. Since 1983, the doctrine has generated 40,000 new low and moderate income housing units in New Jersey, provided for the refurbishing of 15,000 substandard units, and generated over $200 million to refurbish urban housing. Nonetheless, the Council on Affordable Housing (“COAH”) and the State Planning Commission, the two agencies charged by the legislature with overseeing implementation of Mount Laurel, are the targets of sharp criticism by builders, municipalities, and housing advocates. Part I of this Note examines how Mount Laurel arrived at its current iteration. Part II provides the perspectives of those on all sides of the affordable housing debate in New Jersey―advocates who seek to remedy a history of racial injustice throughout the state, municipalities burdened by seemingly arbitrary affordable housing requirements unrelated to harms committed in recent collective memory, and builders compelled by business concerns to create sprawl in America’s most densely populated state. Part III evaluates the relative success or failure of “Growth Share," the current implementation of Mount Laurel doctrine. This survey will reveal that the goals of Mount Laurel vary depending upon one’s place in the political landscape. To make the evaluation more palpable, this Note examines the current affordable housing situations, both positive and problematic, in several New Jersey municipalities.
- Mount Laurel
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/daniel_meyler/1/