Court Blocks Christie on Affordable Housing

The New Jersey Supreme Court has blocked an attempt by Governor Chris Christie to eliminate the state's Council on Affordable Housing.

It’s the latest salvo in the governor’s war on what is known as the Mount Laurel Decision, a series of court rulings dating back to 1974 that require every town in New Jersey to build affordable housing for low-income residents. The COAH is an agency that creates a formula for how many units each town must build, and that formula alone has been the subject of multiple lawsuits.

The state’s highest court on Friday denied a stay of an appellate court ruling that found the governor exceeded his authority when he abolished the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) because the agency was created by the legislature. The appellate court ruled that Christie had overstepped his power when he eliminated the agency last year.

The Christie administration had appealed that ruling and asked for the stay.

The state's affordable housing laws have been controversial for 40 years because many towns prefer to remain exclusive. Additionally, there have been legal fights between builders and municipalities over who is responsible to pay for the housing.

Christie opposes the Mount Laurel decision and COAH because, he argues, it creates red tape and its administration has been flawed.

The COAH reorganization plan — essentially Christie’s plan to abolish COAH — was proposed on June 29, 2011 and went into effect 60 days later. The plan was immediately appealed by the Fair Share Housing Center. The Appellate Division invalidated the plan on March 8, 2012, and Gov. Christie shortly after filed for a stay of that decision which both the Appellate Division and Supreme Court have now denied.

While Christie’s attempt to abolish COAH has been undone by the courts, there are several other lawsuits making their way through the court system, challenges from both sides to COAH and the formula it uses.

One case is expected to come before the New Jersey Supreme Court this year.