From NJ Spotlight:
Declaring New Jersey’s affordable housing process “nonfunctioning,” the state Supreme Court on Tuesday removed from the executive branch jurisdiction over low- and moderate-income housing and sent it back to the courts, giving a clear victory to housing advocates.
This significant order comes 40 years after the court’s first decision establishing the so-called Mount Laurel doctrine, which holds that municipalities must provide their “fair share” of affordable housing, and in some ways turns back the clock to that time period, when individuals, developers, and advocates had to sue to prevent municipalities from blocking this type of housing through zoning laws.
Unless, that is, either the Council on Affordable Housing, which by law is supposed to set housing obligations and approve municipal plans for meeting those obligations, takes action or Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature can agree to new rules. Several sources said yesterday that neither of those is likely, at least for a while.
“I wouldn’t expect the governor to act in any way that is productive,” said Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and sponsor of a COAH reform bill that Christie vetoed in January 2011. He said he will begin working with other lawmakers on a new housing bill, using the one Christie vetoed as a template.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts, in a statement, said the governor wants to fix the process: “Today’s decision is a call to action to finally finish the job of reforming our affordable housing system so that it is no longer a costly burden to the people of New Jersey and actually encourages sound development.”
The “Supreme Court ruling stripping COAH of its power in the affordable-housing process and transferring it back to the courts is a sad, but necessary, day for New Jersey,” said Peter Reinhart, director of the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University and a 1993-2004 COAH member. “Since 2004, the process for providing affordable-housing opportunities has been mired in the failure of COAH to abide by the constitutional requirements and the delays caused by litigation in attempting to force COAH to act properly. Today’s decision will result in more litigation, but this time the judicial decisions on a town-by-town basis will result in enforceable plans to create affordable housing.”
And if municipalities do not comply, they could be forced to allow more housing units at greater density under the “builder’s remedy“ the Supreme Court allowed under its second Mount Laurel ruling.