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Princeton must build more affordable housing, judge rules

[TRENTON] Princeton, one of America's richest towns, must build more affordable housing, a judge ruled in a decision that may have ripple effects across New Jersey.

The home of Princeton University, the state's only Ivy League school, must plan for 753 low-and middle-income homes, more than double what the borough had anticipated, according to the March 8 ruling by Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson. Its wealthy neighbor, West Windsor, has a burden of 1,500 homes for people of little means in a state with high living costs, Jacobson ruled.

The 217-page decision follows a trial last year in a lawsuit brought by Fair Share Housing Center, a Cherry-Hill based non-profit group that advocates for the poor. More than 100 municipalities in New Jersey, which has the third-highest median household income among US states, have yet to comply with prior court rulings on their burden of affordable housing.

Princeton is the 96th wealthiest place in the US, with average household income of US$200,400 in 2016, according to Bloomberg calculations. Income there was 6 per cent higher in 2016 than a year prior.

The town in recent years has been roiled by a tax revaluation that hit an historically black neighborhood especially hard, forcing some longtime residents to sell. In some cases, modest homes were demolished to make way for construction that critics said detracted from the neighborhood's character.

Kevin Walsh, executive director of Fair Share, said the decision would have the greatest impact on working families and people with disabilities.

"This decision is the latest development in a process that is laying the groundwork for tens of thousands of new homes to address New Jersey's housing affordability crisis," Mr Walsh said in a statement posted on the group's website.