Court rules on affordable housing

Affordable housing advocates Wednesday cheered the state appellate court for ordering the Christie administration to stop delaying implementation of new affordable housing rules. The administration, however, stayed silent on the latest wrinkle in the decades-old controversy.

The New Jersey Superior Court’s appeals division has also ordered the Department of Community Affairs to submit reports every two weeks on progress being made to set new rules for municipal obligations toward low- and moderate-income housing. The first such report is due Jan. 28. And the court also stated it may appoint a special master to handle the ongoing dispute.

The Cherry Hill-based Fair Share Housing Center, which represents housing rights of the poor, applauded the court’s action Wednesday. “The Christie Administration has flagrantly defied the decision of the appellate division requiring an end to the decade-long delay in implementing the state’s housing laws,” attorney Kevin D. Walsh said in a statement.

The Court last October ruled the Council on Affordable Housing’s rules were unconstitutional and gave too much latitude to the regulations of towns. The Council falls under the Department of Community Affairs.

The state legislature has adopted legislation that will replace COAH with a new policy on providing affordable housing.  Gov. Christie, who has not yet signed the bill, had previously informed the court that his administration would not meet a court-imposed deadline of March 8 for setting new regulations.

“New Jersey can’t afford the Christie Administration’s foot-dragging on this critical issue,” Walsh said.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the administration would have no comment at this time on the court’s decision.

But Sen. Raymond Lesniak, who shepherded an affordable housing law through the upper chamber this month, had a suggestion for the governor.

“Sign S1,’’ he said of the bill that passed the Senate and the Assembly on Jan. 10.  “It’s a good bill that complies with Mount Laurel and sets manageable zoning requirements for municipalities to provide a reasonable opportunity for affordable housing, without the confusing, complex COAH system which attempts to micromanage all aspects of development in communities throughout the state.

At the heart of the matter is the so-called Mount Laurel decision of the 1970s that mandates that each municipality provide its fair share of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income people. However, the problems over which towns, lawmakers and housing advocates have been wrangling for decades include controversial formulas and the resulting bureaucracy to enforce them.  


Court rules on affordable housing