One of the key advocates for affordable housing in the Legislature said Wednesday’s high court ruling setting aside the governor’s attempt to get rid of the Council on Affordable Housing sends a clear message.
State Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-20), Elizabeth, said that “Today’s decision makes it clear that the Governor cannot ignore the law, he can’t dismiss the constitutional role of the Legislature and he shouldn’t ignore the need for affordable housing in New Jersey.
“Dismantling COAH with no alternative is no way to answer the need for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income residents in a state where it is expensive to buy or rent a home. We should fix the system, not eliminate it.”
Lesniak said he agreed that COAH is flawed. He pointed out he sponsored legislation that would eliminated COAH but moved its responsibilities for creating affordable housing to the Department of Community Affairs and the Housing, Mortgage and Finance Agency.
“It would have replaced a flawed process with a more productive one – and it would have been constitutional. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed it,” said Lesniak, adding that maybe now Christie and the Legislature can work together on a “legal, responsible and successful way’’ to meet affordable housing needs.
And Assemblyman Jerry Green, (D-22), Plainfield, agreed that although COAH is ineffective, the court was right to take the stand it took.
“Everyone agrees the Council on Affordable Housing has been an ineffective agency that has failed to accomplish its goal,” he said in a release. “That’s why the Legislature voted in January 2011 to abolish COAH, only to have Gov. Christie inexplicably veto it.
“Our bill was backed by a broad range of businesses, housing advocates, legal experts and local officials who understood it was the best way to provide housing for working class residents, create jobs and spark the economy. The governor, sadly, wanted a court fight. That accomplished nothing.
“If Gov. Christie is truly interested in affordable housing reform, he should take another look at the Democratic bill to abolish COAH and truly work to find a compromise that will benefit everyone.”