- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A central New Jersey town would provide nearly 1,000 units of affordable housing under a proposed settlement agreement.

The Fair Share Housing Center called the deal announced on Wednesday the first major affordable housing decision to be made since the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in March that judges would take over enforcing housing requirements.

The center, a nonprofit advocacy group, says that Piscataway Township would build 975 units of affordable housing if a judge approves the settlement next month.

Center spokesman Anthony Campisi says at least half of the units will be open to families and some of the housing will be targeted toward poorer residents.

Messages left with the township and with a representative of two estates named in the proposed settlement were not immediately returned.

The Supreme Court’s March ruling was the latest in 40 years of litigation over housing for the poor in one of the nation’s most expensive states. The court found the state isn’t carrying out the Fair Housing Act, a 30-year-old law designed to enforce previous court rulings.

The case goes back to the 1975 Mount Laurel decision, in which New Jersey became the first state where courts declared towns couldn’t use zoning to exclude the poor. In later decisions, judges went further, ordering towns to take steps to allow the chance of housing for low-income people.

Eventually, the state Legislature responded with the 1985 Fair Housing Act, which called for the state to issue new rules periodically laying out how many homes must be provided and giving towns options for how to do it.

The last rules that passed court muster expired in 1999. The court found the state Council on Affordable Housing has failed to implement fair new rules, despite court orders to do so.

Under the March ruling, the issue was taken out of the hands of the administration and handed over to lower-court judges starting in three months.

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