The League supports both A-4666/S-3080 and A-4667/S-3081. Both bills are a response to the current affordable housing impasses in the State and lack of a statewide housing policy and guidance for municipalities.
Because the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has been unable to adopt valid regulations since 1999, the New Jersey Supreme Court transferred jurisdiction over municipal compliance to the Courts. As a result, in July 2015 over 300 municipalities sought to voluntarily comply by seeking declaratory judgement from the Court. To date approximately 100 municipalities have reached settlements and some other municipalities are no longer under the Court’s jurisdiction. We estimate that approximately 150 municipalities are either in or awaiting trial to determine their respective affordable housing obligation. Each Court vicinage is proceeding independently, with different judges and different appointed experts making independent determinations. The result has been a costly and disjointed process, which does not serve the interests of taxpayers or low income families.
Specifically A-4666 and S-3080 enact a moratorium on affordable litigation through December 31, 2017. The bill would not impact any judgement or settlement issued or agreed to before the effective date of the Act. Current litigation would be stayed until the moratorium expires.
A-4667 and S-3081 establishes the Affordable housing Obligation Study Commission. This Commission would consist of 7 members, including:
- the Executive Director of the Housing Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA), ex officio;
- an appointee of the Senate President;
- an appointee of the Senate Minority Leader;
- an appointee of the Speaker of the Assembly;
- an appointee of the Assembly Minority Leader;
- an appointee of the Governor, from a list submitted by the League of Municipalities; and,
- an appointee of the Governor, from a list submitted by the Fair Share Housing Center.
The Commission will do the following:
(1) Examine and study the history of affordable housing in New Jersey and how past practices at the State and local level have resulted in the State’s current legal framework.
(2) Analyze past guidance from State agencies and advocacy groups to municipalities with respect to methods of satisfying existing and future affordable housing obligations to determine whether such guidance has been effective.
(3) Analyze the actual and projected population increases in the State, the number of affordable housing units actually needed to serve the needs of residents.
(4) Hold such public hearings and other activities as may be desirable, at the discretion of the commission, to ensure adequate public input into the preparation of a report.
(5) Gather and disseminate such information on housing needs and strategies as may be useful for the work of the commission and informative to the public.
(6) Prepare, adopt, and publish a report, not later than the 365th day next following the organization of the commission, that provides recommendations to municipalities regarding strategies which could be utilized to meet affordable housing obligations, and to State agencies on how best to assist municipalities in meeting affordable housing obligations.
Considering the extensive and ongoing expenditures of public financial resources in the Courts, passage of these common sense bills is critical. The Legislature needs to step in and establish a reasonable and rational path forward for local governments, for taxpayers and for families in need of affordable housing. These bills create the opportunity to do so in a timely fashion.
A-4666 and A-4667 are referenced to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. S-3080 and S-3081 are referenced to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
Michael F. Cerra, Assistant Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481 x120.