NJ Supreme Court Unanimous Decision Bypasses COAH

Affordable Housing Challenges in the
Hands of Courts, Rather Than COAH

NJ Supreme Court JusticesNJ residents were handed a huge victory this morning when the New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously decided that challenges to municipal affordable housing obligations can be taken to court rather than the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH).

Today’s unanimous decision allows municipalities that had previously been participating in the fair housing process before COAH to file actions before courts within the next 120 days to seek review of their municipal housing plan in the court process, with participation by interested parties such as civil rights organizations, supportive housing organizations, and non-profit community groups. If those municipalities do not file within that time period, then any party seeking fair housing opportunities in that municipality may file. Because the COAH process is not working, the Court held that “the courts may resume their role as the forum of first instance for evaluating municipal compliance with Mount Laurel obligations.”

The Court directed lower courts to base their review on prior rules and decisions that led to over 65,000 homes being built that lower-income families, seniors, and people with special needs can afford. The Court also recognized the importance of moving forward quickly and avoiding unnecessary delay.

“As a result of this decision, more of our hardworking residents, seniors, and people with disabilities will have the opportunity to live in homes they can afford in communities of their choice. Creating affordable homes will help our economy and our residents thrive.”

Said Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network.)

“Too many New Jersey municipalities exclude people who work in the stores and diners of New Jersey. We now have a way to make sure they are not excluded and to ensure there are fair housing opportunities for people who are forced to live far from their jobs and families and who have been displaced by Superstorm Sandy. The Court properly responded to the failure of the state government to implement the law.”

Said attorney Kevin D. Walsh, who argued the case for the Fair Share Housing Center.

Click here for a joint statement on the decision from the Network, NJ Future, the NJ Chapter of the American Planning Association, and the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler.

Click here for commentary from Fair Share Housing Center.

Click here for coverage from the Asbury Park Press.