Affordable housing advocates cheer COAH decision

TRENTON – Housing advocates were quick to applaud Wednesday’s high court ruling preventing the governor from abolishing the Council on Affordable Housing.

“The COAH board should represent the interests of a diverse population. We’re pleased that the Court has recognized the need for a variety of stakeholders including nonprofits to be involved in creating more affordable homes for New Jersey residents,” Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey Executive Director Staci Berger said.

“Our leaders need to work together to ensure that our residents have a range of homes to choose from which will help our economy grow. We applaud this decision for helping move New Jersey forward.”

According to the agency, New Jersey has a shortage of affordable homes and a growing number of residents are unable to afford housing costs. “COAH gives those residents a voice and serves their needs; not the political will of others,” Berger said. “Today the Court acted in the best interest of New Jersey’s economy and hopefully this will get things moving again so more people will have access to more affordable homes.”

Corporation for Supportive Housing Director Alison Recca-Ryan said in a release that “Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms that the laws on the books cannot be ignored. New Jersey’s most vulnerable and low-income residents  will once again have an entity and process in place to implement the state’s fair housing laws, including local affordable housing obligations, ensuring an array of choices to call home throughout the state.”

The Fair Share Housing Center applauded the ruling.

“The Supreme Court’s decision ensures greater public participation and transparency in important decisions on where homes get built,” Adam Gordon, the FSHC attorney who argued the case at the Supreme Court, said in a release. 

“It’s a bad idea for policies involving homes for working families, people with special needs, and lower-income seniors to be made behind closed doors.  Especially after Sandy, we need to encourage more homes for people of all incomes.”

He said that the Court found that the statute that created COAH “requires bipartisan control of the Council, with no more than six of its twelve members from the same political party.”

It rejected the effort to vest that control in one person, stating that “The membership requirements in the statute ensure that a cross-section of community and State interests serve on the Council, with individual members representing different voices: local government, households in need of low- and moderate-income housing, nonprofit builders of affordable housing, the disabled, for-profit builders, and the public interest. Together, they comprise a balanced group with different perspectives.” 

The N.J. Sierra Club pointed out the importance of the ruling in going beyond just COAH.

“We applaud the Supreme Court’s decision today that the Governor cannot just abolish any agency he pleases. This is an important decision because had the court ruled the other way the Governor could easily get rid of the Highlands Council, Pinelands Commission, or any other independent agency. This is a victory for governance and the rule of law with the court today clearly stopping the Governor’s abuse of power,” said Jeff Tittel, Diector of the New Jersey Sierra Club. 

“The Governor has tried to weaken and roll back environmental protections by bullying his way through governmental process and today the court said no.”

Affordable housing advocates cheer COAH decision