As the debate over the municipal housing trust funds continues, the hearing was held to discuss Governor Christie’s demand that municipalities give up the $142 million they have set aside to build affordable housing in their local communities.
The Committee membership argued that before the State can take the money, the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) should meet and be the entity to make a decision about how to move forward. The Appellate Division of the Superior Court had ordered the state to reinstate the Council on Affordable Housing yet only 6 of the 12 positions have been filled. Therefore there is no quorum and the Council has not met in months.
“That municipalities have only themselves to blame for the loss of the funds, because they knew a 2008 law required them to use accumulated affordable housing dollars within four years or they would revert to a state fund for the provision of units.“
“If DCA is unable to explain itself by hiding behind the convenient excuse of pending litigation, the governor should leave affordable housing funds where they belong – with the towns, “ said Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) in a press release on Wednesday as she questioned DCA”s decision making process. “It’s clear that the department is completely ignoring the intent of our affordable housing laws by their inability to explain their decision making.”
The confusion around COAH made it very difficult for the towns to spend their trust funds. And advocates are very concerned about what the State’s position means for affordable housing in New Jersey.
“Arnold Cohen of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ) said that only by ensuring that the funds are spent for their intended purpose — to create more units for low- and moderate-income residents — will lawmakers boost the state’s affordable housing stock.” He urged Assembly members to try to override Christie’s vetoes of the bill to give towns a two year extension to spend their trust fund money or the money will go to the County to spend locally on affordable housing.
Committee Chair Assemblyman Jerry Green also defended local municipalities and his comments were covered in an August 8, 2012 Star-Ledger article. He “said towns that have made a good-faith attempt build their share of affordable housing units shouldn’t be penalized by being stripped of the funds.”