TRENTON – The glare of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) as a gubernatorial election year issue today forced state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria to challenge Republicans asking for his help in scrapping it outright.
“You can’t kill COAH,” snapped Doria at the Senate Budget Committee hearing, wading into terrain treaded frequently by GOP Primary campaign trail candidates, the most recognizable of whom argue for the demolition of the community affairs division responsible for ensuring fair and affordable housing in New Jersey.
Bad idea, said Doria.
“You need to simplify it in a way that will meet court muster,” he argued. “If we don’t do that, we’re back at the beginning again. If we kill COAH, a builder’s remedy takes effect, and the courts come in with any development they want. They can come in and ask for a change in zoning. COAH was created to protect the towns from builder’s remedy.”
“If we don’t kill COAH, COAH’s going to kill us,” protested state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville).
“A number of towns without COAH protection are still liable to court cases going back to 1984, and these same towns you’re trying to protect could end up spending more money on lawyers to fight builder’s remedy cases,” Doria told Pennacchio.
“New Jersey has a unique constitutional requirement for affordable housing created by Mount Laurel I and Mount Laurel II, which resulted in 1985 in the request by the League of Municipalities to create the Fair Housing Act – under Gov. Tom Kean,” Doria added.
A Republican, he noted.
Signaling what will bethe likely Democratic stand on aprime springtime debate issue on the floor of both houses heading into the gubernatorial election, Senate Budget Committee Chair Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) said, "I agree with the commissioner. We need COAH. But it's very complicated in its current form. We need to simplify it."