$160 million at risk as July 17th deadline approaches
On Friday July 13, 2012, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court directed the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) to provide a fair process prior to taking trust funds dedicated to creating homes for lower-income households. Nearly 200 towns will have to give the state at least $160 million set aside for low- and moderate-income housing, if they are not successful in hearings established by the court order.
“This decision means that the Christie Administration cannot seize any municipal trust funds without a full and fair hearing for every municipality before COAH. The Court rightly has brought to a halt the Christie Administration’s planned July 17 raid on municipal trust funds.”
The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court stated that it was “concerned” the process. The appellate court, therefore ordered:
That before any transfer is effectuated, COAH must provide the affected municipality with written notice describing the exact amount of funds intended for transfer and how such amount was calculated.
The municipality shall have the right to contest before COAH the proposed transfer by demonstrating that the funds targeted for transfer have been “committed” to fund an affordable housing project by way of a legally enforceable agreement with a third party, or by such other means that show a firm and binding obligation to spend such funds in a manner consistent with the municipality’s affordable housing obligations.
The court, however, did not grant an immediate injunction that required COAH to stop taking all trust fund money until formal regulations were in place, as Fair Share Housing Center and the New Jersey State League of Municipalities had requested. Instead, it directed the parties to more fully brief that issue for resolution at a later date.
“This decision is a good first step for municipalities and for our taxpayers. The court today made it clear that the seizing of these dollars is not automatically done by statute, but that COAH must provide adequate notice and the opportunity to contest the forfeiture before the agency.”
According to Gordon:
“While we believe the Court should have gone further and stopped any transfers of funds until clear standards are fully in place, the Court’s decision today is a good first step. We will continue to litigate the broader issue of the total failure of COAH to provide any clear standards that housing advocates, developers, and municipalities can rely upon, and hope to ultimately prevail on that point.”