September 25, 2013; Star-Ledger
For ten years, nine communities in Bergen County, New Jersey challenged the tax-exempt status of Advance Housing, Inc., which sponsors 14 properties for people with mental disabilities. Yesterday, Justice Barry Albin of the State Supreme Court upheld the organization’s exemption.
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Albin wrote that, “The property—purchased on large measure at public expense—serves a vital need that would otherwise by borne by the state at a much greater cost.”
The opinion overturns decisions made by the state tax court and the Bergen County board of taxation in 2004. If the Supreme Court had found that Advance should pay property taxes, the agency would have been left owing $200,000 to the town of Fairview alone.
Mary Rossettini of Advance Housing said in a statement, “Finally, after more than 10 years of litigation, Advance Housing has property tax exemptions for the properties we own…Supportive housing has been proven to reduce costs, and the model achieves this goal while also preserving the dignity and independence of people living with mental illness or cognitive disabilities.”
Joseph Young, executive director of Disability Rights New Jersey, said that supportive housing of the sort provided by Advance “is essential to establishing a comprehensive system of community services for persons living with mental illness. This decision will be a big help in ensuring a system that provides safe housing and ready access to services.”—Ruth McCambridge