New Jersey’s Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has been officially abolished, with Gov. Chris Christie’s administration announcing that affordable housing oversight has been transferred to another department of the state government. Christie issued a reorganization plan in June to eliminate the 12-member housing board and switch its duties to the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”).
The reorganization was criticized by Kevin Walsh, associate director of the Fair Share Housing Center, who said “the governor is attempting to consolidate power so he can allow municipalities where the wealthiest New Jerseyans live keep out working folks.” According to the governor, the goal of the re-organization plan is to address the needs of both the providers and beneficiaries of affordable housing in New Jersey by organizing all programs within a single regulatory body.
According to the Office of the DCA Commissioner, the Commissioner will support the creation of affordable housing by increasing regulatory flexibility and efficiency and immediately implementing interim streamlined protocols regarding the following: review of requests for agency action, including waiver and motion requests; review and approval of spending plans; review and approval of development fee ordinances; approval of Administrative Agents and Municipal Housing Liaisons; approval of affordable housing operating manuals; and public noticing procedures. The Commissioner’s interim procedures, supposedly will help foster predictability and consistency for municipalities, developers and housing advocates, curb procedural inefficiencies that result in unreasonable delays and costs to municipalities and the private sector, while promoting the availability of affordable housing throughout the State. The Commissioner will propose permanent procedures pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.
Because there was previous confusion/contention regarding how to determine a municipalities “fair share” of existing and future affordable housing need, and how to meet that need, it seems that the NJ courts will yet again be asked to intervene in the creation of affordable housing. It has been 36 years since the first Mt. Laurel decision (Southern Burlington County N.A.A.C.P. v. Township of Mount Laurel, 67 N.J. 151 (1975); how many more years will it take to resolve?