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Forty Years after Mt. Laurel – New Findings about the Effects of Affordable Housing

April 26, 2012 @ 8:00 am - 2:30 pm


Forty years ago, a New Jersey Superior Court handed down an historic decision that changed the discourse about affordable housing in New Jersey. On May 1, 1972, the court released its decision in Southern Burlington County NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel, finding that the town’s zoning ordinance, which effectively deprived the poor of adequate housing and discriminated against them, was constitutionally invalid. The state Supreme Court agreed (though on different grounds) in 1975 and created, under a case known as Mt. Laurel I, the “Mt. Laurel doctrine.” The doctrine requires every municipality’s land use regulations, as well as those of state agencies with land use responsibilities, to affirmatively provide a “realistic opportunity” for construction of their fair share of the regional need for housing affordable to low and moderate income households. Litigation followed in Mt. Laurel II to address remedies, and, at the urging of the court, legislation was passed to hammer out the details and implement what the court defined as the state constitutional obligation.

The doctrine and the grounds on which it is based – that zoning that excludes low and moderate housing opportunities is a form of economic discrimination prohibited by the state constitution – are still controversial today. At the heart of the discussion is the speculation that affordable housing will increase crime, decrease property values, and diminish neighborhoods. Are these concerns valid? Today’s discussion will introduce new research, based on the experience of Ethel R. Lawrence Homes, a 140-unit, 100% affordable family rental project developed in Mount Laurel, NJ, that demonstrates that many of the fears of the ill-effects of affordable housing are unfounded.

The format for this event will be presentation and discussion. Four researchers will each give a 15-20 minute overview of this new research. The second panel will consist of stakeholders asking the researchers questions about what the literature says about various policy initiatives. The goal of this format is to have the Stakeholder panel shape the discussion about how the research should and will affect decisions that New Jersey must make as it considers housing policy going forward.

This event is free but by Invitation Only and requires registration.

Click here to register


April 26, 2012
8:00 am - 2:30 pm
Event Category:


Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
Frist Campus Center, Multi-Purpose Room B
Princeton, NJ 08540 United States


Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
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