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COAH “Reform” Bill Sponsors Not on Same Page; Bill’s Content Remains Murky at Second Hearing

Posted by Adam Gordon on February 8th 2010

At the close of over four hours of testimony over two hearings on S-1, in which opponents and skeptics greatly outnumbered supporters, one thing was clear: nobody really knows what the proposed legislation to radically redo New Jersey’s affordable housing system would actually do.

In fact, the two main sponsors of the bill appear to have entirely opposite ideas. Sen. Ray Lesniak appears to think the bill would increase affordable housing production, and told a local Hudson County reporter that COAH’s record of 2,000 affordable homes a year was not enough. Sen. Kip Bateman told the Asbury Park Press on the same day that the bill would reduce affordable housing production below COAH levels.

Among promises made by Sen. Lesniak in the two hearings were that:

  • the bill would include special needs housing (as currently drafted, it deletes the section of the Fair Housing Act on crediting for special needs housing);

  • the bill would include 100% affordable housing (as currently drafted, it focuses on inclusionary development only);

  • the bill would include some unspecified standard for deeming a community “inclusionary” (as currently drafted, municipalities set their own standard with some kind of review by the State Planning Commission);

  • the bill would include some level of required densities and rezoning for inclusionary housing (as drafted, it does not);

  • the bill would place some check on municipalities that receive RCA money and then don’t spend it, a theme Governor Codey repeatedly returned to during the hearing (as drafted, it does not); and

  • the bill would be constitutional (as drafted, it certainly isn’t).

No word on whether Sen. Bateman, who was only present briefly during the first hearing and was not there today, agrees with these promises.

And no word on next steps, other than a potential vote on March 8 in the committee on a bill that could, at this point, mean just about anything. If S-1 is going to pass out of committee, we hope that between now and then the sponsors will settle on a constitutional bill, as we outlined here, that actually increases housing choices near good jobs, good schools, and transportation choices.