A Hudson County Superior Court judge struck down Jersey City’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, granting Fair Share Housing Center’s motion for summary judgement this afternoon.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“This freewheeling bidding … concerns this court because the dynamic is such that someone seeking an approval can essentially, I am not using corruption like money in a bag, but the city could say I am giving you approval and maybe you can reduce our affordable housing,” said Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Turula.
” … It is too freewheeling, it is not something this court believes is lawful. It is why this court is striking down this ordinance.”
Turula also ruled that the Jersey City Council should not have approved the measure without first referring it to their planning board.
“The decision should send a firm message to the city’s elected officials and other municipalities across New Jersey that affordable housing is not a chit to be traded away as part of backroom deals that do not benefit working families,” FSHC Staff Attorney Bassam Gergi told HCV.
“We urge Mayor Fulop and the City Council to step up and work with Fair Share Housing Center as well as community and civil rights groups in the City to introduce a serious inclusionary ordinance that will ensure that there are meaningful opportunities for affordable housing in new residential development.”
City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said the city is currently weighing their options on how they’ll proceed, but remains focused on prioritizing affordable housing.
“Our single goal is to create more affordable housing in Jersey City, and we were confident that this ordinance would have achieved that. To us, it made little sense to pass a feel good ordinance that sounded good on paper but in reality didn’t result in any affordable housing increases as was the case when a similar feel good ordinance was passed in Newark,” she said in an email.
“At this point, we will review our options and meet with all stakeholders, including the group that filed the lawsuit, to discuss next steps. Our goal remains more affordable housing.”
The Jersey City Council approved the IZO at their October 21st meeting after four hours of public comment against it, with the final tally being 7-2, with Councilmen James Solomon Rolando Lavarro voting no.
Lavarro lauded Turula’s decision and said he looked forward to working on legislation that will help build affordable housing for vulnerable communities.
“I’m ecstatic and the judge’s ruling was clear and decisive on both the procedural and substantive grounds. This administrative will say they lost out on affordable housing, but this is a victory for Jersey City for sure,” Lavarro said over the phone.
“It prevents the city from doing any further quid pro quo [deals] with developers going forward. I look forward to establishing legislation … for the most vulnerable communities in our city. The city attempted to kick the can down the road until after the election and it’s our job now as the voice of the people to make sure people know this happened.”
Ward E Councilman James Solomon said that today’s ruling again emphasizes the need for independent leadership.
“This ruling once again highlights the importance of leadership independent from the political machine; leadership that asks tough questions to create as much affordable housing in Jersey City as possible,” he began in his own statement.
“I voted against the current version of Jersey City’s affordable housing ordinance because it offered developers too many loopholes to evade their affordable housing obligations. Today’s ruling striking down the law provides advocates and policymakers an opportunity to work together to write a strong, smart affordable housing ordinance in line with state law.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated with comments from city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione and Ward E Councilman James Solomon.