Life after COAH: DCA says it’s reducing bureaucracy; Housing Center opposes DCA’s directives

TRENTON –  The decision to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing has reduced bureaucracy and paved the way for cost-effective planning, according to the head of the Department of Community Affairs.

DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa, writing in an October newsletter of the N.J. League of Municipalities, tells N.J. mayors that since DCA took over COAH’s responsibilities on Aug. 29, there has been a move toward streamlined rules and predictability.

In late June, Gov. Christie announced he would abolish COAH and transfer its role to DCA. The Council on Affordable Housing, and the lengthy, complicated court battles over its mandates to provide housing for lower-income residents has been a source of political debate for decades.

But according to Grifa, DCA’s interim procedures will “curb inefficiencies which resulted in unreasonable delays and costs to municipalities and the private sector while promoting the availability of affordable housing throughout the State.”

Among them:

Towns may submit requests for waivers from regulations in order to expedite development of low- and moderate-income affordable housing;

Municipalities can designate Municipal Housing Liaisons without state approval;

Municipal resolutions requesting review of spending plans are no longer required. Towns may submit a letter in hard copy or online making a request.

And Grifa said in the article that DCA will provide planning assistance to towns.

“As part of a comprehensive strategy, this planning assistance will include incorporating the goals of the Fair Housing Act into the pursuit of economic development and strategic planning initiatives while focusing on flexibility and efficiency.”

But Kevin Walsh of the Fair Share Housing Center said no one believes that the DCA is cutting red tape to promote more affordable housing.

“The only thing worse than a dysfunctional COAH is (Gov.) Christie running the show,’’ said Walsh, whose public interest organization is challenging in court Christie’s COAH reorganization and the rules DCA has issued.

“Christie has said outright he disagrees with the Mount Laurel doctrine,’’ said Walsh in reference to the 1975 case in which the state Supreme Court said municipalities must use their zoning regulations to promote affordable housing.

Life after COAH: DCA says it’s reducing bureaucracy; Housing Center opposes DCA’s directives