Major trial begins on Englewood Cliffs affordable housing obligations

After years of pursuing policies that exclude low-income families, Englewood Cliffs is appearing in Bergen County Superior Court today for the first day of a trial that will determine its fair housing obligations and that could lead to the construction of hundreds of new homes for working families.

Long one of the State’s most exclusive enclaves, Englewood Cliffs has refused to allow for the construction of any affordable housing for more than 40 years, in defiance of New Jersey law.

The trial comes after Judge Christine A. Farrington stripped the town of its protection from affordable housing litigation in August, citing its dismal track record of failing to comply with the Mount Laurel Doctrine its obligations under the New Jersey Constitution to put in place realistic plans to meet the housing needs of working families, seniors and disabilities.

Judge Farrington found that the borough had “chosen to pursue a path of resistance” to the law and that its exclusionary efforts had led to “a long delay and the denial of equal treatment to the poor.”

Englewood Cliffs is only the third town to lose such protections since the current fair housing enforcement process was established by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2015.

Fair Share Housing Center Executive Director Kevin Walsh, who is representing the State’s low-income families in the trial, issued the following statement:

Englewood Cliffs’s elected officials have tried to use every means at their disposal to exclude low-income households. Their goal has been apparent:  to defy the law and to deny the constitutional rights of New Jersey’s working class. After forty-plus years, the time has finally come for Englewood Cliffs to meet its obligations.

The borough’s mayor, Mario Kranjac, has made multiple public statements declaring the town’s all-out opposition to projects that would provide an opportunity for low-income families, particularly families of color, to move into one of the State’s most exclusive communities.

Although nearly 300 towns across New Jersey have been able to resolve their fair housing obligations through the existing legal process, Englewood Cliffs has abused the process to delay compliance with our Constitution and to deny the rights of working families.

The law doesn’t permit towns like Englewood Cliffs to use their zoning powers to exclude working families, and we’re optimistic that the trial will bring the town into compliance so that we can get to work building the homes that so many of New Jersey’s working families desperately need.