League of Municipalities says state sent ‘inadequate’ letters to towns seeking trust fund money

TRENTON – The state is seeking to get money from municipalities’ local housing trust funds today by sending out letters to municipalities.

However, the League of Municipalities, the lobbying group that tried unsuccessfully to get an injunction on the municipal trust funds the state was seeking to take over, found the letters to be lacking in detail.

“The League has reviewed these letters, and finds they provide inadequate clarity and guidance for municipalities,” according to a statement from the League of Municipalities. “Indeed, the letters fail to address a number of outstanding issues and accordingly the League finds that the letters do not appear to comport with the recent Court order.

“The most glaring unaddressed issue is exactly when did COAH meet to authorize the issuance of these letters and when are future meetings of COAH scheduled to hear issues and appeals,” the statement continued. “The statute and the court order contain no ambiguities:  the COAH board must meet to authorize the actions of the agency.    The State has failed to provide municipalities any indication when such meetings will occur, but instead imposed an Aug. 13 deadline to either contest the amounts determined by the agency, or forfeit their funds to the state.” 

Nearly two weeks ago, the Appellate Division ruled that the state can take the money back from municipalities, but gave the towns the ability to issue a legal challenge to the seizure.

The League of Municipalities, among others, sued because they believe the state left towns in limbo after it disbanded the Council on Affordable Housing, leaving towns with little guidance on how to commit those funds.

The recent Appellate Division order requires that COAH, whose disbandment by the Christie Administration was previously overruled,  provide municipalities with notice, an explanation of how much it believes each municipality should forfeit to the state, and an explanation as to how it arrived at that particular amount. 

Despite its disagreement with the state’s actions, the league advised towns to work with the state.

“The league encourages its membership to provide the state with any and all requested documentation in a timely manner to support that funds have been committed for affordable housing purposes,” the league said. “The league also encourages every local government to exercise its full rights under the law and the court order, and to seek the opportunity to be heard before COAH if the municipality disagrees with the state’s action. 

“In the meantime, the league will continue its efforts before the Appellate Division to ensure the state complies with the plain language of the 2008 Act, which requires the state to adopt regulations. The loss of this funding to municipalities will place an additional burden on the property taxpayers of these communities.”  League of Municipalities says state sent ‘inadequate’ letters to towns seeking trust fund money