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The Township has received inquiries from several residents seeking clarification as to whether a new housing rule proposed by the Trump Administration will halt the construction of new affordable housing in our Township and other municipalities. The quick answer is “no.” Municipalities across New Jersey are still required to meet their affordable housing obligations pursuant to the Mount Laurel Doctrine that was handed down by the NJ Supreme Court in 1973 and reaffirmed in 2015. The change announced by the President and HUD Secretary does not change a municipalities’ constitutional requirement to provide affordable housing opportunities or be faced with a builder’s remedy lawsuit where a court can order high-density development and affordable housing.
The question then is what is the Trump Administration proposing and what does it mean? Here is a brief overview:
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Dr. Ben Carson announced in July 2020 that HUD has proposed a rule that will ultimately terminate the Obama Administration’s “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) regulation issued in 2015, which according to HUD proved to be complicated, costly and ineffective.
The AFFH rule was meant to fulfill requirements of the Fair Housing Act which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. The Fair Housing Act brought an end to the practice such as redlining and racial covenants in home deeds. But, the law was also supposed to require local governments to work to desegregate neighborhoods across the country.
Under the Obama AFFH, any locality that received block-grant funds from HUD (Hanover Township does not) was required to produce an assessment outlining its efforts toward assuring fair housing. The Trump Administration found this process to be unworkable and a waste of time for municipalities to comply. In the alternative, the Trump Administration has proposed a new rule called “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice” (PCNC) which defines fair housing broadly to mean housing that, among other attributes, is affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible under the civil rights laws. It further defines “affirmatively furthering fair housing” to mean any action rationally related to promoting any of the above attributes of fair housing. If HUD receives a complaint that a municipality is not complying with the PCNC criteria, it can, after conducting an investigation terminate HUD grant funds. The rule is still pending approval.
For additional specific information concerning the proposed new HUD rule, please visit the HUD website.
To stay informed about affordable housing updates in Hanover Township please visit our COAH/Fair Share Housing Obligations page.