COAH Receives Temporary Reprieve from Supreme Court Ruling
Yesterday, June 11, 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Chris Christie cannot disband the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) at least until the court hears the dispute. The ruling states the abolition of COAH is illegal, violated the state’s constitution and intruded on the powers of the New Jersey General Assembly. The court will most likely not take up the case again until the fall.
In March 2012, the Appellate Division invalidated the governor’s plan to eliminate COAH and give its duties to acting Community Services Commissioner Richard Constable. That court rejected the state’s request for a stay of the ruling until the Supreme Court hears the case. In an order issued last Friday, June 8, 2012, Supreme Court also rejected a request for a stay.
“It’s an interim decision but it’s an important one, especially because it removes from the governor the power to decide what happens to the municipalities’ (housing) trusts,” said Kevin Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center.
Click here for NJ Spotlight’s coverage of the court’s decision.
Click here for the briefs filed in the appeal available from the Fair Share Housing Center.
The governor did away with the 12-member council on last summer on August 29, 2012 and transferred its duties to the state Department of Community Affairs.
Spokesman for the Christie administration, Michael Drewniak, said the governor’s office did not have any immediate comment on the order but noted “many Republican and Democratic legislators believe COAH has onerous and ineffective demands on municipalities, making it more hurtful than helpful to the state.”
Inaction by the Governor’s office since 1999 has effectively created a moratorium on implementation of the Mount Laurel doctrine. COAH was formed in 1985 to implement the Fair Housing Act, which was the result of a series of court decisions requiring New Jersey towns to provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families.
The court decision comes after the unanimous approval by committees in both houses of the Legislature last week of legislation to extend the time that municipalities have to expend local housing trust funds, with bipartisan support for rejecting Governor Christie’s attempt to seize those funds to help provide a tax cut to millionaires.