RIP New Jersey COAH

A New Jersey State Senate bill recently introduced would abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), taking implementation of low and moderate income housing standards from the state and putting it in the hands of municipalities.  It’s about time.

COAH came into existence in the late 1970′s as a result of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mt. Laurel Decision, which basically said that municipalities cannot zone against low and moderate-income housing and must supply affordable housing.  COAH set quotas for each of the state’s 567 (now 566) municipalities.

The quota system was unfair to many municipalities, setting unrealistically high numbers for some towns.  Here in Cape May County, Middle Township is still required to offer 932 more affordable units by 2018 and Upper Township still owes over 500.  It’s unrealistic and puts a heavy burden on taxpayers, who must fund new schools and services to meet the demand of so many new residences.

Senate Bill S1, sponsored by Raymond Lesniak and Christopher Bateman, and its companion State Assembly bill A2057, would abolish COAH.  It would also do away with State-imposed calculations of affordable housing needs.  Instead, it would permit municipalities to determine their own needs.  The State Planning Commission would assist towns in facilitating opportunities for affordable housing.

The bill would require municipalities to re-examine their master plan and adopt an ordinance that provides an opportunity for an appropriate variety and choice of housing.  They must show that they have complied with their obligations under the Fair Housing Act.  Any municipality not enacting ordinances by December 31, 2011, would be required to have any developers set aside 20% of their project for low or moderate or work force housing.

What does all this mean?  COAH and its assigned numbers of affordable housing units will be put to rest.  But municipalities aren’t off the hook.  They must still offer affordable housing, but on their own terms, not Trenton’s.

-Mountain Man and City Girl

The blogsite of Jewell Real Estate Agency, Wildwood Crest, NJ

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