Court Ruling Restores COAH

TRENTON – An appellate court determined that Gov. Chris Christie exceeded his authority when he abolished the Council on Affordable Housing last year and transferred the council’s functions to the Department of Community Affairs.

In a unanimous ruling, judges Philip Carchman, Clarkson Fisher and William Nugent ruled that Christie does not have the power to abolish a legislatively created independent authority.

“Today’s court decision has made it clear – the Governor cannot ignore the Constitution, nor can he ignore the Legislature, in his efforts to comply with the Mount Laurel decisions mandating affordable housing in New Jersey,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union.)

“In order to develop a plan which will stand the test of court scrutiny, we have to work together to create an alternative to COAH that actually works,” he said. “We cannot simply throw COAH out the window without first developing a mechanism which seriously addresses the shortage of affordable housing opportunities in New Jersey communities.”

The 12-member Council on Affordable Housing is tasked with enforcing the Fair Housing Act, which was passed after a series of court decisions that required New Jersey municipalities to provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families. However, while an appeal of rules instituted by COAH in 2004 is pending before the Supreme Court, the council’s rule-making authority has been suspended.

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