New bill reauthorizes regional contribution agreements for Sandy affected counties
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon will introduce new legislation tomorrow that reauthorizes regional contribution agreements (RCAs) between towns in the nine most Superstorm Sandy-impacted counties. These agreements will permit the transfer of housing units to count towards a recipient municipality’s fair share obligation. These types of agreements were originally permitted under the Coalition On Affordable Housing where one town could transfer a portion of its affordable housing obligation to another. RCAs were banned in 2008.
“I’ve always said that the law banning RCAs was shortsighted,” explained O’Scanlon. “I want to go on record saying I disagree with this far reaching court-mandated housing scheme. But if we have to have it, there should be a mix of options for municipalities to deal with it. “Mayor John Hornik of Marlboro recently revived the discussion of RCAs in relation to those areas affected by Sandy. We have seized on that common ground and developed legislation reauthorizing RCAs to help facilitate the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of housing in areas hardest hit by Sandy. We can finally put these funds to work creating affordable housing and helping towns recover from the storm at the same time. I look forward to working with Mayor Hornik on this as we work to persuade the legislative leadership to join the effort.”
Citing the shortage of federal and state funds available to assist Superstorm Sandy impacted homeowners in rebuilding their homes, the Middletown Township Committtee this week joined Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon in calling on the state legislature and Governor Chris Christie to put the more than $100 million in Affordable Housing Funds that are sitting dormant to work.
With a unanimous 5-0 vote, the committee passed a resolution on Monday, April 21, calling for legislation that would reinstate Regional Contribution Agreements (RCAs) “for the limited purpose of getting victims of Superstorm Sandy back in their homes during this time of need.”
RCAs were created in the original 1985 Fair Housing Act whereby towns with funds raised from developer fees or through bonding could transfer up to half of those funds to another community for the purpose of building affordable housing as required by the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mt. Laurel decision.
Sweeney: RCAs “put poor white folk and poor black folk out of town”
Hornik: “No one in Trenton can honestly say that COAH is working”
Senate President Sweeney rejected out of hand an idea brought forth by Marlboro Mayor Jonathon Hornik this week that could potentially release $184 million in dormant funds for the benefit of Superstrom Sandy victims.
Hornik called for the reinstatement of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA), in order to unlock $184 million in COAH funds to help residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy rebuild their homes in an OpEd piece published on MMM and PolitickerNJ.
RCAs were a practice that was in place to build affordable housing in New Jersey from 1985 through 2008 under the Fair Housing Act, whereby communities that had raised affordable housing funds through development could transfer those funds, and their obligation to build affordable housing within their own community, to other communities with an immediate need. The legislature and Governor Corzine outlawed RCAs in 2008.
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon issued a statement commending Hornik and said,”When the Democrat leadership in Trenton killed the RCA program it was bad, short sighted policy that many of us knew would come back to bite us. Its flaws are now magnified by the plight of Sandy victims as many towns struggle with the economic burdening of rebuilding.”
Forgotten among the latest round of finger-pointing and investigations regarding the use of Superstorm Sandy funds are displaced low and moderate-income homeowners and renters who need help. This immediate and pressing need, combined with resources available from communities like Marlboro Township, in the form of affordable housing trust funds, present a unique opportunity for regional cooperation. Now all we need is some action in Trenton.
The funds, collected from developer fees, now totaling at least $180 million state-wide (and which the State has been trying to take for its own budget problems), are to be used to meet the need for affordable housing under the Supreme Court’s Mt. Laurel rulings. Those cases decreed that every town has an obligation to provide for its region’s need for affordable housing. We have long argued that the doctrine should be meaningfully applied – let’s build the housing where the need is the greatest.
Yet to this day the planners in Trenton wrangle over rules to determine how towns must address their affordable housing, going on 15 years now, when it should be painfully obvious that the need for our community (and our region) is staring us in the face. Current state laws prohibit Marlboro from helping those communities who are in desperate need for housing assistance after Sandy. There is no mechanism for Marlboro to spend its trust funds for the benefit of, for example, Union Beach or the Highlands, because there are no rules that allow us to do so. We can’t fulfill a fundamental tenet of Mt. Laurel, and help our neighbors because the authority to do so isn’t there. And why not?
Transcript from statement read at the Dec. 5, 2012 Oceanport Borough Council meeting by Councilman Joseph Irace:
Oceanport Councilman Joe Irace
Tonight we are being “asked” under court order, to approve an affordable housing plan for the Borough of Oceanport for COAH Round 2. The entire debate on Affordable Housing is one that I have trouble understanding intellectually, socially and fiscally. While we all embrace the idea of lower priced homes, where newly married couples and our aging population can remain in our town for now and years to come, I have a hard time accepting the fact that the Courts, and not our legislature, have the ability to mandate how many homes and the type of homes that a municipality must provide. This is especially troublesome to me because the rest of the town bears the tax burden of this unfunded judicial mandate.
This COAH legislation and the resulting judicial decisions have been a social planning experiment gone awry from the very beginning. The confusing and often contradictory laws and court rulings arising from Rounds 1 and 2 of COAH have led to the Borough being sued for lack of compliance and have cost our residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The entire system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Thursday’s New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state’s most recent affordable housing regulations also sent the Council on Affordable Housing back to the drawing board. The decision gives the council five months to come up with…
If you want to understand what rule by liberal judges looks like on the state level, you need only look at New Jersey, which is teetering on bankruptcy though it remains one of America’s wealthiest states. ~ Steven Malanga, writing in City Journal
If you want to understand how, despite being one of the wealthiest states in the country, New Jersey is teetering on the brink of fiscal disaster, read Steven Malanga’s The Court That Broke New Jersey.
If you want to know why no governor or state legislature can reduce New Jersey’s oppressive property taxes, read Steven Malanga’s The Court That Broke New Jersey.
Malanga traces the roots of New Jersey’s tyranical Supreme Court all the way back to Arthur Vanderbilt, the first Chief Justice under the 1947 state constitution. In his opinion in Winberry v. Salisbury, Vanderbilt layed the foundation for judicial tyrnany by ruling that the court, not the legislature, has the power to make rules for the state judiciary.
That ruling set New Jersey’s judiciary apart from the court systems in most other states—as well as from the federal judiciary, which ultimately derives its authority from Congress. Some critics have even argued that Winberry violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that every state must have a republican form of government. “Under the doctrine of Winberry v. Salisbury,” wrote New Jersey lawyer Anthony Kearns in a 1955 ABA Journal article, “we can only conclude that laws of practice and procedure are exclusively in the hands of men who are not elected.”
Malanga clearly lays out how New Jersey’s Supreme Court has taken over the state’s education policy and funding with no improvement in urban education to show for the $40 billion that has been wasted as a result of the Abbott decisions. He lays out the history of how the court usurped local zoning power with the Mt. Laurel decisions and COAH. He connects the dots in explaining how those two extra-constitutional power grabs have resulted in massive wealth redistribution, with no societal benefit, and an oppressive system of goverments.
Malanga stressed the importance of Christie’s promise to reshape the court with judges who will interpret the constitution rather than relating to it as a “living document.” However, he is not optimistic because of “…a Democrat-controlled legislature that’s often happy to dodge responsibility for heavy spending by letting the court mandate it.”
Hat tip to InTheLobby for bring this important article to our attention.
Governor Chris Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney announced that they had reached a compromise over the nomination of Anne Patterson to the NJ Supreme Court.
Christie nominated Patterson to the court one year ago today to fill the seek of John Wallace. Wallace’s term was expiring but he had not reached the age of mandatory retirement. Christie acted within his constitutional authority but broke with tradition by not reappointing Wallace.
Christie’s Democratic critics, in the legislature and the media, charged that the governor was interfering with the independence of the judiciary. Christie countered that he was fulfilling his campaign promise to reshape the court which has a long history of overstepping its bounds and legislating from the bench, especially with the Abbott decision which mandates education spending and the Mt. Laurel decision which mandates the development of affordable housing. These two judicial decisions are responsible for New Jersey’s highest in the nation property taxes.
Sweeney pledged that Patterson would not get a hearing in the Senate and that her nomination would not be voted on until Wallace, who hails from Sweeney’s home county of Gloucester, reached the age of retirement; March of 2012. For a year the Wallace seat has filled by appellate Judge Edwin Stern who was appointed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner as a temporary fill-in.
As a result of the “compromise” announced yesterday between Christie and Sweeney, the governor will withdraw Patterson’s nomination to Wallace seat and nominate her for the seat of retiring Justice Roberto Rivera-Sota. Sweeney pledged a fair hearing for Patterson, and that timely hearings will be held for the Wallace seat and the seat of
Justice Virginia Long who reaches the mandatory retirement age in 2012.
I fail to see the “deal” here. Where’s the compromise? What did Christie get? Christie could have withdrawn Patterson’s nomination for Wallace’s seat and nominated her for Rivera-Soto’s seat without consulting Sweeney. Sweeney keeps the Wallace seat filled by Stern until March. Was Sweeney threatening to hold up the nominations to replace Wallace and Long beyond their retirement dates? Would Sweeney allow three seats on the seven member court to be held by temporary Justices appointed by Rabner?
The other thing I don’t like about this deal capitulation, is that it is an indication that Christie assumes that Sweeney will be Senate President next year. While that may be a realistic expectation given the new gerrymandered legislative map, it is disappointing to think that Christie, as the leader of the Republican party, has already given up on trying to win control of the Senate in the legislative election this November.
If Christie has given up on winning control of the Senate, who am I to argue that it is possible?
As an attorney I am often exposed, through my clients, to examples of government ineptitude. Truly there is no scarier phrase then “I am from the government and I’m here to help”.
I recently came across a most glaring example of this. Twenty years ago this person purchased a “low income housing unit” These are typically units that that are built by developers so that towns can meet their COAH obligations. In return the developer gets increased density for its market rate housing. More about that later. These units have deed restrictions that limit the amount the value of the house can appreciate.
This person is now ready to move out of their low income housing. Here is the problem. There are no buyers who qualify as low income. In an effort to assist this person I contacted some experts in this area and found out that even when there are low income buyers available they can not qualify for a mortgage. Apparently there are numerous vacant low income housing units just sitting there. It seems thanks to an activist Supreme Court and an inept government we have housing units that no-one can buy.
Now this is not the first time I have come across flaws in the COAH system. I have also seen examples where someone right out of college had income low enough to purchase low or moderate income housing and a relative willing to help them purchase it. Five years later their income is increased substantially, they have a fat bank account and a BMW in the driveway while living in housing that costs them a pittance. Not really the people who needed government intervention to get a leg up.
Another problem, abuse really, are the people who have illegally rented out their COAH units and made a nice sum of cash. This is more common then you would think.
The real problem however is that COAH housing has done more to increase the cost to live in New Jersey then anything else including overpaid government employees and public employee benefit packages. Here is why. For the last 30 years developers have been able to force communities to allow them to build developments in excess of what the municipality has zoned for by agreeing to also build a small number of low and moderate income housing. This is due to the ill conceived judicial legislation coming out of the Mount Laurel line of cases.
How has this driven up the cost to live in New Jersey? For every residential unit that is built a municipality generally spends $1.50 in services for every $1.00 it gets in tax revenue. This is the reason that taxes are generally higher the more populated a community is.
So thanks to government we have a program to provide affordable housing that really does not work AND has actually made it more expensive to live in New Jersey. In my opinion it has also degraded our quality of life by overdeveloping our communities. For these reasons affordable housing is a perfect example of an area that should not be the responsibility of government.
How do we fix the problem? Unfortunately since the Supreme Court decision that started the whole mess is based on rights the court has found in our state constitution there is only one way to fix the problem. We need an amendment to the State Constitution which in effect overrules the Mount Laurel cases and does away with the Council On Affordable Housing. This will get the government out of the affordable housing business and return zoning control to local municipalities. Since our Legislature in thirty years has not had the courage to do this that will not likely happen until we get initiative and referendum in the State of New Jersey. This will do more to control property taxes going forward then anything else being done.