Tag Archive: COAH

Be Careful What You Wish For, Governor

Four decades ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued what is known today as the Mount Laurel Decision – an interpretation of the state constitution that requires affordable housing be made available in the state’s municipalities. Ten years after that decision, the state legislature created the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), an agency that was charged with developing the regulations and approach to comply with the court’s order.

Chris Christie has never been a fan of affordable housing. From Day One of his administration, he has tried to eviscerate and neuter COAH. His minions stonewalled, met infrequently, and never satisfactorily executed the agency’s mission. This week, Christie got his wish. COAH is dead. But not in the way he wanted.

Because of the agency’s intransigence, the New Jersey Supreme Court stripped COAH of its powers and ordered local courts to start to ensure that the requirements for affordable housing are complied with.

The attorney who argued this case is Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of the Fair Share Housing Center. I spoke with Walsh on the ongoing need for affordable housing in the state and the approach his organization will take to help meet that need.

Jump below the fold to see the interview, or for an audio podcast, click here.

Past NAACP NJ Chief on Gov. Christie: “A pattern of breaking the law when it comes to civil rights”

A couple of days ago when I posted this – Chris Christie: The guy who lives HERE doesn’t think NJ needs affordable housing – about how our private-jetting, luxury hotel-loving, fabulous mansion-living governor doesn’t see the need for affordable housing in his state, Darnell Hardwick of NAACP New Jersey reminded me of this, two years ago:

Here is NAACP NJ’s former chief James E. Harris, charging Gov. Christie with a pattern of breaking the law when it comes to civil rights. This is dead-on:

“He’s breaking the law because he has a different idea of what government should be. [Christie] wants to disengage government at the local level and let local people have control. In a state like New Jersey that’s so racially segregated, if you leave the choice to local communities, they won’t change. We’re the most racially segregated state in the United States of America … We have school systems based on housing patterns where students go to school without having much interaction with any of the students other than their own race. So the governor wants to placate and play to the governor’s side which is leave us alone and we’ll be fine. Well, civil rights says you can’t leave people alone because things will never change.”

On the jump page, watch Harris on NJToday with Mike Schneider (6/10/13):

Christie Administration Fails in New Affordable Housing Regulations

Diary rescue from Tuesday, with thanks to Yvette for an update on the continuing favoritism the Christie administration extends to New Jersey’s wealthy at the expense of lower-income NJ residents – and what housing advocates like Fair Share Housing Center are doing about it. Promoted by Rosi.

In 1985, following multiple state Supreme Court rulings that towns in New Jersey cannot exclude low- and moderate-income families through their planning and zoning powers, the New Jersey Legislature created the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). The Council, tasked with creating regulations on each municipality’s “fair share” of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people, worked fairly well – with the notable exception of the since-outlawed Regional Contribution Agreements, which allowed wealthy towns to buy out of their fair share – through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2000, COAH has been attempting and failing to come up with a new installment of regulations. The latest proposal by COAH, currently going through the administrative rulemaking process, is another disastrous failure.

This is not surprising because Governor Christie has consistently taken the position that towns should be able to exclude low- and moderate-income people, even people who work in their town. In September 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the Christie Administration’s so-called “growth share” approach to making New Jersey’s fair housing laws optional, and charged the Council with coming up with rules that followed what worked in the 1980s and 1990s. COAH’s response was the latest third round rules, which were released – after unexplained delays – on April 30, 2014. A process for commenting on the rules just concluded on August 1, including a public hearing in July that was packed with a diverse array of opponents to the rules. The Christie Administration and COAH are now considering the comments, with a final deadline of November 17 to adopt final rules.

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.

A Tale of Two Executives

Governor Christie’s disagreement with the New Jersey Supreme Court on its decision pertaining to the Council on Affordable Housing was not the first time that an executive disagreed with a high court.

Remember Barack Obama’s reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision allowing unlimited secret political contributions by special interest groups? In his 2010 State of the Union Address, the President said

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”

Compare that statement to Governor Christie’s reaction to the COAH decision

“The chief justice’s activist opinion arrogantly bolsters another of the failures he and his colleagues have foisted on New Jersey taxpayers. This only steels my determination to continue to fight to bring common sense back to New Jersey’s judiciary.”

While Obama’s remarks attacked the decision and not the decision-makers, Christie impugned the integrity of the justices personally. That’s a big difference.

Whether you agree or disagree with President Obama, his reaction shows respect for the court, their processes, and the justices. But Christie’s childish bullying reaction shows disdain and immaturity. Christie may be able to snooker the voters of New Jersey, but he has proven time and again that he is not presidential material, and not ready for prime time on the world stage.

America deserves better than Chris Christie. And so does New Jersey.

Christie loses in court: NJ Supreme reject his attempt to kill off COAH

The New Jersey Supreme Court today rules 5-2 that Gov. Chris Christie does not have the power to abolish agencies intended to be independent.

“The plain language of the Reorganization Act does not authorize the Chief Executive to abolish an independent agency like COAH.”

       – from the decision, written by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner

Read the decision. And here are the briefs and additional info.

Today’s decision upholds an appellate court ruling in 2012 which reached the same conclusion. Adam Gordon of Fair Share Housing Center argued the case at the Supreme Court:

“The Supreme Court’s decision ensures greater public participation and transparency in important decisions on where homes get built. It’s a bad idea for policies involving homes for working families, people with special needs, and lower-income seniors to be made behind closed doors.  Especially after Sandy, we need to encourage more homes for people of all incomes.”

The Court found that the statute that created COAH requires bipartisan control of the Council, with no more than 6 of its 12 members from the same party. The membership requirements call for a cross-section of community and state interests to make sure different voices have representation, including local government, households in need of low- and moderate-income housing, nonprofit builders of affordable housing, the disabled, for-profit builders, and the public interest.

In other words, a balanced group to better serve people in need, not a housing policy directed by one guy. Particularly one who has demonstrated little interest in serving communities in need. This decision comes as the Christie administration is trying to take $165 million in housing trust funds from municipalities, which translates to thousands of homes that wouldn’t be built. Gordon stresses that today’s decision is the Court’s rejection of “the Governor’s attempt to shut the public out of this process.”

Amazing. We called Christie out on his attempts at naked power grabs back in 2010. Not much has changed in his methods or his direction since then.  

NJ Supreme Court Argument on Christie’s power to abolish independent agencies

Just a quick heads-up for those who might want to watch this happen, at 10am today, the NJ Supreme Court will heal oral argument in an appeal filed by Gov. Christie in which he argues that he has the power to abolish independent state agencies. It will be broadcast live from the 8th floor of the Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.

Watch the proceedings live.

Background: Gov. Christie appealed a March 8, 2012 decision by an appellate court that ruled that his abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) violated state law. The panel found that NJ’s State Constitution and statutes do not allow Gov. Christie to abolish independent agencies. [Independent agencies include  ELEC, NJ Turnpike Authority, Rutgers, and COAH.] The decision has had broad ramifications, including ending the Governor’s attempt to eliminate Rutgers-Camden through a similar reorganization plan.

Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh:

“The Governor’s role under the constitution is to enforce the laws, not to make them. The Appellate Division got it right.  Gov. Christie does not have the power to abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like.  We need homes for working families, people with special needs, and seniors.  Putting the Governor in charge of housing policies he opposes is bad for working folks looking for homes in NJ.”


The appellate court, which relied on quotes from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the proper separation of powers in the original meaning of the Constitution, rejected Gov. Christie’s argument that the state Constitution gave him unlimited power to change the structure of state government.


Future of Fair Housing in NJ at Stake in Wed. Court Argument

promoted by Rosi

On Wednesday at 10 am, the New Jersey Supreme Court will consider a request by Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities to allow towns to exclude low- and moderate-income families, seniors, and people with special needs, reversing four decades of court rulings. The argument is the most important fair housing case in New Jersey in 30 years.

You can watch the hearing live or afterwards here.

The argument is about upholding a practical and fair solution that’s good for communities, and good for business. A broad and unusual array of groups – ranging from Fair Share Housing Center to the NAACP and Latino Action Network to special needs organizations to New Jersey’s Catholic Charities to the Housing and Community Development Network, New Jersey Future, and the American Planning Association to the New Jersey Builders Association and other business groups – have asked the Supreme Court to affirm existing law and require that every municipality allow for its fair share of homes affordable to low- and moderate-income people.

Over the last few weeks, planners, community leaders, special needs housing providers, and civil rights leaders all speak out on the importance of housing opportunities for all citizens of New Jersey.  

The groups on the other side of the case – Governor Christie and wealthy municipalities – ask the Supreme Court to overturn four decades of fair housing law and risk the gains New Jersey, and the country, has made because of it. They would dismantle a system that a recent Princeton University study found has massive educational and economic impacts – such as a 25 percent increase in earnings and a 67 percent drop in welfare use.

More below the fold…