Supreme Court punts on affordable housing for New Jersey

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STATE — The Supreme Court’s ruling on affordable housing will allow the Republican administration in Trenton to continue ignoring a host of laws and prior court orders, instead of imposing tough sanctions on public officials who failed to do their jobs.

An appellate panel ordered the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) to hold its first meeting in 10 months, but the agency cancelled it after the state Supreme Court issued a temporary stay just 18 hours before the session would have begun.

The top court’s one-page order put a stay on an extraordinary Appellate Division ruling that COAH meet by 9:30 a.m. on March 12 to begin working on rules for municipalities to provide their “fair share” of housing for low- and moderate-income residents as required under the state Supreme Court’s so-called Mount Laurel rulings.

Now, Gov. Chris Christie will be free to drag out the process and continue to insure that unfair housing practices are not stopped.  Supreme Court Justice Barry Albin wrote a dissenting opinion, that said, “History does not give me confidence that we will see compliance with the Fair Housing Act anything soon.”

“Under our state Constitution, all New Jersey communities must provide some affordable housing for lower-income residents,” said Democrat James J. Devine, of Rahway. “COAH’s last meeting 11 months ago, was the first in more than two years, and it was held to allow the Christie administration to swipe $162 million in municipal affordable housing trust funds to help balance the state budget.”

“Giving Republicans more time to do nothing is an unacceptable invitation to inaction,” said Devine.

The council, which is supposed to have 12 members, currently has only half those seats filled and most Republicans would be happy to see the agency dismantled.

 

Last Friday, after a five-month deadline for adoption of new COAH rules set by a Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 26, passed with the agency taking no action to comply with the decision or even hold a meeting, an appeals panel ruled that the council needed to act, this time to enact affordable housing quotas, which are 14 years overdue, by Feb. 26. 

“The Mount Laurel Doctrine has led to the development of over 40,000 affordable housing units outside New Jersey’s racially and economically-segregated urban centers,” according to the Fair Share Housing Center, a group that fights to defend the rights of New Jersey’s poor by monitoring, enforcing and expanding affordable housing actions.

 


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