The New Jersey Supreme Court is hearing more arguments in an affordable housing case Wednesday challenging a ruling that told towns they did not need to meet low- and moderate-income home obligations between 1999 and 2015 because the state's Affordable Housing Council couldn't agree on requirements.
The justices seemed skeptical Wednesday about the towns' arguments that they don't have to meet housing requirements during the 16-year period. Justice Barry Albin asked whether the Legislature could somehow have foreseen that there would be a 16-year gap period.
The arguments stem from a motion from the Fair Share Housing Center. The Supreme Court said earlier that towns should not yet disregard their requirements.
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The hearing comes after the state's top court ruled in March 2015 that judges would take over enforcing housing requirements and after settlements with towns began to be announced.
The court's ruling was the latest in 40 years of litigation over housing for the poor in one of the nation's most expensive states.
The court found the state isn't carrying out the Fair Housing Act, a 30-year-old law designed to enforce previous court rulings.
The case goes back to the 1975 Mount Laurel decision, in which New Jersey became the first state in which courts declared towns couldn't use zoning to exclude the poor. In later decisions, judges went even further, ordering towns to take steps to allow the opportunity for housing for low-income people.
Eventually, the state Legislature responded with the 1985 Fair Housing Act, which called for the state to issue new rules periodically laying out how many homes must be provided and giving towns options for how to do that.
The last rules that passed court muster expired in 1999. The court found the state Council on Affordable Housing has failed to implement fair new rules, despite court orders to do so.
Under the March ruling, the issue was taken out of the hands of the administration and handed over to lower court judges.