LETTER – Fair Share Housing admits its own numbers are “a lie”

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 The Fair Share Housing Center expected the Mercer County Superior Court to affirm it’s projected affordable housing obligations; but are now saying those numbers are a lie after Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi used them to paint a picture of over-development.

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Fair Share, which has taken towns to court to enforce its calculations, said in April that the state needed 146,000 units to cover a 16-year gap period when the state failed to calculate obligations, and another 140,000 to fulfill housing quotas from 2015 to 2025.

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The group submitted those figures to Mercer County Superior Court to help determine the housing obligations of five municipalities that have not reached settlements.  Its executive director Kevin Walsh said at the time, “We expect the courts to affirm this study.”

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However, contrary to positions taken before the courts, Walsh reversed course and called Fair Share’s housing numbers a lie in his letter to Schepisi.

In a letter Thursday, Walsh wrote, “our organization is not taking the position that municipalities must develop hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes by 2025.”  He further argued that any claim “that municipalities are being required to provide 280,000 affordable homes is a lie.”

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For decades state courts have relied upon Fair Share’s methodology to establish municipal obligations under the Mount Laurel doctrine. Cases involving more than 350 municipalities are either currently before the courts or have been settled. Most of the disputes between municipalities and Fair Share have been over the size of prospective need.

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“Their deceptive practices are similar to certain retail clothing stores that used to raise their prices by 40 percent immediately before a 30 percent sale,” Schepisi (R-Bergen) said.  “Towns I represent in Bergen and Passaic counties have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional fees just trying to comply with Fair Share’s mandates that they now admit should be significantly less.”

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The center is seeking a court order blocking Edgewater from issuing occupancy certificates for non-affordable housing units, as well as a mandate that any construction related to non-affordable housing cease until it completes building 75 promised affordable housing units.

Econsult Solutions, a Philadelphia consulting firm hired by more than 200 municipalities, issued a report in 2016 setting the current need statewide at 33,140, with a prospective need for the next decade of 36,494.