The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)on September 7th hailed the end of a 30-year battle to construct low-income housing in the Mount Laurel Township, an affluent suburb of Camden, New Jersey. The completion of the first phase of Ethel R. Lawrence Homes, a 62-acre development, was sparked by the 1975 landmark state Supreme Court decision mandating that municipalities must provide a ‘fair share’ of affordable housing for the poor.
NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond said, “Thirty years is thirty years too long to wait for justice, but we are pleased this day has finally arrived. The right to shelter is a basic right – so many other rights are dependent on it.”
Two NAACP branches, Southern Burlington County and Camden County, in addition to Lawrence, now deceased, filed
a lawsuit against the township in 1971 after it rejected a zoning variance request to build a low-income apartment
Bond will be a speaker at the official dedication of the Ethel R. Lawrence Homes (located at the intersection of Union Mill Road and Moorestown-Mount Laurel Road) on Saturday, September 15, 2001 at 11:30 a.m.
The three-decade struggle in Mount Laurel has been replete with legal and political wrangling. In 1983 the state’s high
court reaffirmed and clarified its earlier decision against exclusionary zoning by establishing incentives and judicial
remedies. In 1985 legislators enacted the Fair Housing Act, which established the Council on Affordable Housing to settle zoning disputes. In 1986 the Jersey Supreme Court restated that the use of zoning laws to bar poor people was
unconstitutional and upheld the powers of the Council on Affordable Housing.
Bond said that while housing segregation remains a major problem across the United States, the NAACP “remains
committed to press for an end to economic and racial segregation everywhere.”
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