Fair Share Housing Center suing Jersey City to overturn ‘sham’ inclusionary zoning ordinance

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Fair Share Housing Center, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the City of Jersey City to overturn what they believe is a “sham” inclusionary zoning ordinance.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“ … This sham ordinance fails to address Jersey City’s growing affordable housing crisis and gives a pass to politically connected developers, giving them the option of trading away their affordable housing obligations for undefined contributions,” FSHC Executive Director Adam Gordon said in a statement this evening.

“State law prohibits this type of quid pro quo arrangement, which invites corruption and shortchanges the working families of Jersey City who are being squeezed by skyrocketing housing costs. Because Mayor Steve Fulop and City Council ignored the unanimous voices of more than 60 community advocates who testified in opposition and passed an illegal ordinance, we are forced to turn to the courts for relief.”

FSHC was extremely critical of the ordinance prior to the October 21st vote on second reading, exclaiming that that it was “riddled with developer-friendly loopholes.”

Specifically, they were decrying the clause that would allow developers to pay the city between $25,000 and $100,000 per unit – with a two percent annual increase – instead of building affordable housing.

Their lawsuit, filed in Hudson County Superior Court yesterday, contends that the ordinance violates state Municipal Land Use Law since it was not sent to the Jersey City Planning Board to see if it was consistent with the city’s Master Plan prior to the council vote.

“The members of the Council who supported Ordinance No. 20-089 claimed that it is designed to maximize affordable housing for those low- and moderate-income families in need,” the suit says.

“In reality, Ordinance No. 20-089 grants Jersey City’s municipal officials absolute discretion to trade away affordable housing as part of quid pro quo agreements with favored developers in clear violation of the MLUL and substantial precedent.”

The ordinance, which calls for certain developers to include 20 percent affordable housing in their project, also has a provision that allows community givebacks such as a parking deck or police station to replace affordable housing.

A slightly amended IZO, which included a “rounding amendment” introduced by Councilman-at-Large Rolando Lavarro, ultimately passed 7-2 – with Lavarro and Ward E Councilman James Solomon voting no.

A city spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.