EDITOR: I am writing to applaud the Madison Borough Council for its vote on Sept. 14 to approve the recent settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), a statewide affordable housing advocacy group.
New Jersey’s struggle to provide a realistic opportunity for all its citizens to afford adequate housing has long been the source of contentious court battles. The famous — or infamous — Mt. Laurel decisions of 1975 and 1983 are now more than 30 years old and the issue of affordable housing remains a contentious one in New Jersey.
That is why I am so proud that Madison has such a long history of leadership in this area. It was a study by St. Elizabeth College students that first brought the need in New Jersey for “a decent home and suitable living environment for every family” to the attention of the public in 1939! Since then much has happened, but the basics haven’t changed. We strive as a society and a community to balance the interests of existing property owners with the wish to keep Madison a place where the people who serve the community — teachers, police, restaurant workers — as well as seniors, veterans, and young people just starting out on their own, can afford to live.
Many communities have done nothing about housing and thereby invited what are called “builder’s remedy” lawsuits. These actions are expensive to defend and take zoning control and other construction oversight away from the municipality. They often result in many more units at a much greater density than the towns believe they can support. Madison has by this settlement avoided such an outcome.
Madison’s settlement with the FSHC requires Madison to identify and acquire a site to include 40 units by Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Future “unmet needs” could be found over time by “overlay zoning” where we identify additional areas that could support potential housing units.
This settlement allows Madison to control its destiny in housing. It protects us from “builder remedy” lawsuits for years to come. And most important, it is a fair and moral way forward to ensure that Madison stays the kind of town we can all be proud to call home.