Tag Archive: Council on Affordable Housing

NJ Supreme Court Acts Decisively on Affordable Housing

After years of inaction and failure to respond to court requests from the Christie administration and his Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), the New Jersey Supreme Court decided yesterday to take matters into its own hands and provide a remedy.  

When COAH had failed to promulgate Third Round Rules requested by the court by November 17, 2014, Fair Share Housing Center filed an instant motion. “The Court heard oral argument on January 6, 2015, and COAH’s representative admitted that COAH has not conducted or scheduled any meetings since its last meeting in October 2014, that it does not have any plans to meet further in an effort to adopt Third Round Rules, and that staff have not been directed to perform any work in furtherance of adoption of Third Round Rules.”

Yesterday the court ruled as a remedy that “towns must subject themselves to judicial review for constitutional compliance, as was the case before the Fair Housing Act was enacted.”

This ruling should help people of low and moderate income seeking much needed affordable housing throughout New Jersey.

For individuals interested in learning more about yesterday’s unanimous decision, below the fold are a few key paragraphs from the court’s syllabus on this decision.  

Important Deadline in Housing Trust Funds Fight This Friday

This Friday, August 2, marks an extremely important deadline for municipalities across New Jersey as they respond to letters sent by the state’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). These letters request that municipalities provide documentation proving their commitment of municipal housing trust funds. Over 3,000 new homes for victims of Sandy, people with special needs, and working families remain in limbo as the Christie Administration continues to try to seize these funds.

COAH sent these letters following the New Jersey Appellate Division’s June 7 decision that the Christie Administration could not move forward on seizing trust funds without detailed scrutiny and broadened participation. The decision followed a dramatic three weeks in which the Appellate Division first halted the entire process after COAH had ordered that towns reply by May 22 in an attempt to seize the funds before the end of the 2013 budget year and the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld that order.

The new review process comes at a critical time in the state’s history, with an unprecedented demand for housing only 9 months after super storm Sandy. A significant amount of these funds-57 percent – were also already earmarked for towns in the nine counties hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

In COAH’s letters, sent in late June, the agency notified municipalities they had 30 days to prove their funds were committed to building new housing developments or for other fair housing programs (despite COAH’s failure to define what “committed” means or approve plans needed to move forward). Because of our victory in the Appellate Division with our co-appellants the League of Municipalities and South Brunswick Township, COAH’s Executive Director then has to review the files town by town and provide further explanation of why it seeks to seize particular funds. Then municipalities and other interested parties will have another 15 days to address that initial determination. The COAH Board is then required to hold a meeting to review the Director’s decision. – Thus, under the new process, COAH is prohibited from seizing the funds until they meet collectively to reach a final decision. All municipalities or interested parties may appeal any decision to the court.

Over the past several years, municipalities have struggled to build new homes because of COAH’s failure to approve their projects or to provide any guidance on how to show their funds are committed. If seized, thousands of low – income and special needs families, many of which still remain homeless after Hurricane Sandy, will lose the opportunity to live in a safe and affordable home. Some examples of these developments include 148 affordable apartments serving Sandy victims in Middle Township, Cape May County; 120 homes for people with special needs in Edison, Middlesex County; and over 50 new Habitat for Humanity homes throughout Morris County.

With only two days left until the August 2 deadline, municipalities, affordable and special needs developers, and other affected parties are, in a rare alliance, united to show why the Christie Administration is wrong on this issue. Though the Appellate Division decision created a new process and cast serious doubt on this effort, Christie continues his never-ending war to stop the building of homes that low income people desperately need. It’s all part of a broader agenda to make New Jersey homes less affordable for lower-income families – including Christie’s attempt to abolish COAH, which the Supreme Court stopped in their recent July 10, 2013 decision. Click here for a copy of the decision.  Us at Fair Share Housing Center and many other housing advocates, community groups and municipalities will continue to fight this overreach and monitor Christie’s continued attempt to take trust funds and keep Blue Jersey readers posted.

What’s Next After NJ Supreme Court Victory on COAH

Thanks, Fair Share Housing, for keeping us up-to-date on the fight for housing opportunities for low-income New Jerseyans, and for fighting Chris Christie’s attempt to exercise more power than he’s entitled to as governor.

Promoted by Rosi.

On June 10, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Governor Christie could not abolish the state’s Council on Affordable Housing, an independent state agency created in 1985 by the New Jersey Fair Housing Act, which requires every municipality allow a fair share of homes that lower-income families, seniors, and people with special needs can afford. Click here for a copy of the decision. This decision comes at critical time in the state’s history-while NJ faces an unprecedented housing crisis as it struggles to rebuild only 9 months after Hurricane Sandy.  

A Day in the Life of Political New Jersey

  • Dwindling down to a precious few…  According to PolitickerNJ, Senate President Steve Sweeney will not run for Governor. He is likely to formally announce this decision today or tomorrow. No big surprise. Can U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell be far behind him? It appears that the suspense is over and that it will be Sen. Barbara Buono who remains standing – tall and proud. Other Democratic leaders still need to endorse her, and we all need to put on our working boots to assure her victory.  

  • U.S. Senate Action today on Sandy…   The Senate is scheduled to take up the aid bill today at 4:30 and to vote on the matter at 5:30. Sen. Mike Lee (R Utah) is expected to introduce an amendment requiring that the cost of the aid be offset by reducing expenditures in the budget, but his measure seems bound for defeat. The aid bill should pass and President Obama will sign it into law quickly. The hurricane struck us on October 29, so getting this bill enacted has taken a painful and prolonged three months.

  • Late  afternoon press release…   As Governor Christie has been luke-warm on increasing the minimum wage and adamantly opposed to indexing its rate to the CPI, we can anticipate a press release today or tomorrow issued after most newspapers’ deadlines stating that the Governor is vetoing or conditionally vetoing the bill. So much for his statement last year: “I propose that we better engage and serve New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens.” But there is still hope for increasing the minimum wage via a public ballot initiative. Polls show strong public support for an increase.

  • No cure for the housing blues?…   Christie’s concern for the vulnerable also does not extend toward those in need of low-cost housing. Today the State is contesting an appellate ruling and will continue its battle before the NJ Supreme Court to weaken New Jersey’s strict affordable housing requirements. At stake also is a dangerous precedent of giving New Jersey’s governor, viewed as one of the most powerful in the country, even more control over state government.