By David Madden

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — New Jersey’s highest court has decided that towns across the state will have to meet obligations for affordable housing during a 16 year period that the state failed to enforce mandates from the court.

It’s the latest in a series of rulings stemming from the four decades old “Mount Laurel decision” that requires municipalities to set aside housing for low income people.

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From 1999 to 2015, the Coalition on Affordable Housing did not enforce court mandates, according to Anthony Campisi, a spokesman for the Fair Share Housing Center.

“A group of towns were arguing that because the state didn’t do its job, these tens of thousands of families should be excluded and locked out forever, and the court rejected those arguments,” Campisi told KYW Newsradio.

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The New Jersey League of Municipalities downplays the effect of the ruling. “If a family is no longer income eligible, no longer qualifies for affordable housing, the household is deceased or has moved out of state, they need to be factored out,” Assistant Executive Director Michael Cerra said.

He suggests trial courts will wrestle with what he called a “complicated” decision and that it’ll eventually return to the Supreme Court for clarification. In the meantime, he believes the state legislature should revisit the issue.

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Campisi says 90 towns have already addressed their needs under the new order and 200 others are, for the most part, working on compliance.