Trust Fund Raid Stopped by Court Injunction!
Posted by Kevin Walsh on August 10th 2012
In a decision released this afternoon, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey enjoined the Christie administration from taking municipal housing trust funds, ruling that the administration does not have the authority to take up to $200 million in housing trust funds without convening the independent board of the Council on Affordable Housing. The raid was scheduled to start on Monday, August 13, 2012. The court’s decision states:
we hereby restrain COAH staff from demanding or receiving affordable housing trust funds, which have been demanded by COAH staff to be turned over by August 13, 2012. The COAH’s staff’s request of those funds is ultra vires. The authorization for such a turnover must come from the COAH Board. See N.J.S.A. 52:27D-329.2. The COAH Board, as it must now be constituted to comply with our March 8, 2012 judgment, has not met and has not authorized the demand imposed on the municipalities by the letters sent at the direction of the Acting Executive Director of COAH on July 24, 2012. Accordingly, the Active Executive Director and COAH staff are hereby enjoined from seeking a turnover from any municipality of affordable housing trust funds, and any funds that have been turned over shall be returned to the municipality forthwith.
“The governor has overstepped his proper role again,” said Kevin D. Walsh, an attorney with Fair Share Housing Center. “The law entrusts the independent COAH Board with the power to implement the Fair Housing Act. The governor is not a king. He has to comply with the laws on the books. We have worked with municipalities and other advocates to push back against the administration’s unfair raid on municipal trust funds. The issue will now be decided in public by a vote of the independent board rather than behind closed doors and under the direction of the governor.”
James Harris, President of the NJ Conference of the NAACP, said, “We appreciate that we can turn to the courts to protect civil rights and the Mount Laurel doctrine, but we are disturbed by the governor’s continued assault on lower-income families that need housing that they can afford.”
The panel’s decision is available here. One judge on the three-judge panel dissented from the majority’s decision.
Please visit our blog at http://fairsharehousing.org/blog for more information regarding the trust fund litigation.
Fair Share Housing Center, founded in 1975 is based in Cherry Hill. It is the only public interest organization devoted entirely to defending the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor through implementing the Mount Laurel doctrine, which requires that each municipality provides its fair share of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income people.