June 12, 2012
Re: Affordable Housing Trust Funds Court Denies Administration Stay
In March, the Appellate Division set aside the Governor’s Administrative Order which abolished the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and transferred its responsibilities to the Department of Community Affairs. Please see the League’s March 8 Dear Mayor letter for more on that decision. The Administration subsequently appealed that decision to the State Supreme Court and requested a stay on its implementation.
Yesterday, we learned that the Supreme Court denied the request for a stay of the decision. It has not acted on accepting or denying the appeal itself, though it seems likely that the Court will accept the appeal because of the significance of the issues involved.
What this means in the short-term is that the Administrative Order is not in effect, including the abolishment of COAH. Effectively COAH exists again, though it appears as if it does not have enough active board members to make a quorum. (The League outlined this issue in its March 20 Dear Mayor letter.)
Now an outstanding issue is whether the municipal housing trust funds can be forfeited to the State in July since the statute refers specifically to “the council,” meaning COAH. Housing advocates advanced yesterday that the stay effectively means that the State cannot act without the COAH board. We view this as a legitimate interpretation and reading of the statute.
However, the League urges caution in assuming that the State will not attempt to or cannot seize the uncommitted trust fund dollars. Unless a legislative extension is passed and signed by the Governor before the July deadline, this is likely to also be an issue for the Courts. For this reason, the League recommends continuing your efforts to commit your trust fund dollars.
Yesterday’s developments, however, underscore the need for a legislative extension. The League supports S-2011 and A-2950, which were approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs and Assembly Housing and Local Government Committees respectively on Thursday. (Please see our June 8 Dear Mayor for a summary.) The Assembly bill advanced to the Assembly floor and can be voted by the full Assembly as soon as June 21. The Senate bill was 2nd-referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and is scheduled for a hearing before that Committee next Monday, June 18.
We urge you to contact your State Legislators and ask them to support S-2011 and A-2950. Further, we urge you to contact the Governor’s Office and ask for its support of these bills. The League can provide you with a sample letter, as well as sample resolutions in support of S-2011/A-2950, for your consideration.
For more, please see today’s Star-Ledger article and the article on NJ Spotlight.com.
Questions on this letter and issue can be directed to Mike Cerra at email@example.com or at (609) 695-3481 x120.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.