NJ Court Blocks the State From Taking Municipal Affordable Housing Funds

I was a reporter covering Bergen County, New Jersey, in May 2012 when municipalities in the state were told by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) that they would either have to “commit for expenditure” affordable housing trust funds or risk having them seized by the state.

In a frenzy, I and the other reporters began calling around to the local governing bodies to find out how much money was at stake and what they planned to do in light of a deadline enforcement on using the funds.

But the town leaders had just as many questions as us.

With the uncertainty over the future of COAH, and flimsy language on the state's mandates, towns were in a state of limbo as the Christie administration threatened to take up to $164 million from municipal affordable housing trust funds to pad the state's general coffers.

It was these actions that joined the League of Municipalities with the Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), groups Adam Gordon described as “former foes” here on Rooflines, to fight the administration on its plans.

Both groups got a win on Monday.

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court issued an order blocking the state from taking the funds. The decision came in response to an emergent application filed by the Fair Share Housing Center.

Housing advocates say they money is needed now more than ever, especially for towns recovering from Hurricane Sandy destruction

“More than half of the money is from the nine counties hit hardest by the storm” says Kevin Walsh, FSHC Associate Director. “The administration is blocking homes from being built or fixes up at the worst possible time, when rents are increasing and homes are scarce.”

According to FSCH, municipalities have proposed to use the funds for over 3,000 homes through supporting developments from Habitat for Humanity and other community groups.

Staci Berger, executive director of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, also thanked the court and the many community groups around the state who have voiced their opposition.

“Governor Christie fought for Congress to approve funding to help our state recover and rebuild after Sandy,” Berger said. “We're troubled that he would take money for the very same purpose away from those very same communities. Places like Cape May County and the other Sandy devastated counties need every single dollar.”

(Photo by Bob Jagendorf CC BY)

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