TRENTON – Leading Assembly Democrats have written a letter to the state Supreme Court to correct what they call mischaracterizations regarding the state’s bid to take control of affordable housing funds.
Speaker Sheila Oliver, Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and others have written the letter in response to the state’s action in seeking to combat a court’s stay of its attempt to take over control of the funds from municipalities.
Oliver and other Democrats say the administration, in its filings with the high court, misstates the legislative intent behind A500.
The lawmakers had passed that measure in 2008, which in part addressed a tactic of some towns that stockpiled their affordable housing funds.
“For some municipalities, this was because RCAs (Regional Contribution Agreements) created an incentive to sit on the money in anticipation of satisfying their housing obligations through large payouts to other towns,’’ the letter states.
The letter goes on to say that the so-called “use it or lose it” provision was intended to spur towns to use the money on affordable housing within their own borders.
The state’s move to seize the funds – estimated at $165 million – was temporarily halted by the courts, and the Attorney General appealed that stay to the Supreme Court.
The Democrats’ letter emphasizes that the point was to accelerate, not impede, affordable housing development by towns, and that the Council on Affordable Housing was expected to assist towns in this effort.
Yet, the letter states, COAH has not issued a single regulation or directive for towns on how to protect their money.
“That the state defends its actions by appealing to the legislative intent behind a law so clearly designed to stimulate production of affordable housing is baffling,’’ the letter says.
The letter says that the transfer of any uncommitted funds to the state is in the law, but the Democrats argue in their letter that the state itself has prevented the towns from complying with the law.
Others who signed the letter include Budget Chair Vincent Prieto, Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Jerry Green, Thomas Giblin, Albert Coutinho and Mila Jasey.