Galloway pleased with COAH changes

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GALLOWAY – The Township Council took advantage Tuesday, July 24 of an affordable housing order issued recently by the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.
The court order issued Friday, July 13 protects Affordable Housing Trust Funds from attempts by the state to simply confiscate them.

It directs the Council on Affordable Housing to provide due process to municipalities before taking their trust fund money, according to a New Jersey State League of Municipalities alert issued Monday, July 16.
The Fair Share Housing Center, a public-interest organization that works to defend the Mount Laurel doctrine, also released a statement on the decision.
“This decision means that the Christie administration cannot seize any municipal trust funds without a full and fair hearing for every municipality before COAH,” FSHC staff attorney Adam Gordon said. “The court rightly has brought to a halt the Christie administration's planned July 17 raid on municipal trust funds.”
The July 17 deadline for municipalities to be able to use money it had collected through development fees for COAH was the result of a law signed by former Gov. Jon Corzine in 2008. If the money is not “committed,” it would have gone back to the state. However, the term “committed” was never defined.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council unanimously approved a resolution “committing” more than a half-million dollars in affordable housing funds.
Resolution 204 for 2012 commits funds for the township’s Affordable Housing Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to “low income” and “very low income” living in deed-restricted units.
“The resolution commits $550,000 for affordable housing,” Planner Tiffany Cuviello explained to members of council. “It doesn’t specify who gets it, it just commits that sum of money.”
Mayor Don Purdy said it was a good move.
“I’m glad to see the money’s not going back to Trenton,” Purdy said.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Councilman Jim Gorman said. “I’m glad to see it done.”
In 2011, Christie dissolved COAH and put the state Department of Community Affairs in charge of affordable housing, but the seizure deadline was never changed.
A state appeals court then ruled Christie could not eliminate COAH outright. But the deadline for spending the funds was still not addressed.
As the deadline (and the end of the 2012 fiscal year) approached, the state Legislature passed a 2013 budget, as well as two other pieces of legislation to address the trust fund deadline.
Christie line-item vetoed the 2013 budget and the other legislation to eliminate language that would have defined “committed” and extended the deadline for municipalities to spend their housing trust funds (S-2011/A-2950).
On Monday July 2, Fair Share Housing Center filed an application in the Appellate Court to stop COAH from taking any municipal housing trust funds until it announced regulations defining “committed.” The New Jersey State League of Municipalities filed a letter in support of this application and requested permission to file as an amicus curiae.
According to the FSHC press release, the appellate court ordered that before any transfer can be made, COAH must provide the affected municipality with written notice describing the exact amount of funds for transfer and how that amount was calculated. The municipality then has the right to contest the transfer before COAH.

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