The Legislature should outlaw one harmful practice the appellate court let stand: the rule that lets wealthy towns unload their affordable housing obligations on poorer towns.

Since 1998, about 120 mostly upper- and middle-class suburban towns have paid 40 cities and older suburbs more than $200 million to build or rehabilitate 10,000 houses - so they didn't have to do it themselves. These are called "regional contribution agreements."

"They're morally wrong," says Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. (D., Camden). "They're one reason New Jersey has the most segregated towns and schools in the nation."

Long an opponent of RCAs, Roberts has a bill to outlaw them. In the 2002 Camden recovery act, he insisted on a provision suspending the practice there.

RCAs undermine the spirit of the landmark "Mount Laurel" housing court cases by limiting affordability to a few towns, instead of the whole state.

The agreements have contributed to some of the highest concentrations of urban poverty in the nation, which jeopardize New Jersey's future prosperity.

Many urban mayors like RCAs because they assure a pot of money for housing renewal. That's why Roberts' bill retains $15 million annually for rehabs - not enough, but a start.

The state needs better urban - and housing - policy than RCAs.