NJ Supreme Court holds that Governor Christie lacked authority to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH)July 30th, 2013 by Joseph William Singer
In 2011, Governor Chris Christie purported to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), an agency set up by legislation and designed to implement the state’s Mount Laurel obligations; he planned to transfer its responsibilities to the Department of Community Affairs. The Supreme Court of New Jersey had held in the Mount Laurel litigation that towns were required to implement zoning laws in a manner that made room for all kinds of housing, including housing affordable by low and moderate-income families. S. Burlington County, NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel (Mount Laurel II), 456 A.2d 390 (N.J. 1983); S. Burlington County, NAACP v. Twp. of Mount Laurel (Mount Laurel I), 336 A.2d 713 (N.J. 1975). When the legislature created an agency to manage those obligations, the court held that it constituted a legitimate institutional mechanism for complying with those constitutional obligations. Hills Dev. Co. v. Twp. of Bernards, 510 A.2d 621 (N.J. 1986). In In re Plan for Abolition of Council on Affordable Housing, 2013 WL 3717751 (N.J. 2013), the court interpreted the statute establishing COAH and the statute providing for reorganization of state government and determined that COAH was an independent agency that could not be abolished or reorganized without new authorizing legislation.