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.
Assemblyman urges Bayshore residents to ask Senate President Sweeney join the bi-partisan effort
Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, issued a statement today welcoming Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik’s support of Regional Contribution Agreements (RCA) for use in getting Sandy victims back into their homes, and called upon residents of his Bayshore district to question Senate President Sweeney the use of Affordable Housing Funds when Sweeney visits the district for his Town Hall meeting in Keansburg on Thursday afternoon.
“Recently, Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornik suggested that RCAs could be used by towns to help their neighbors continue to rebuild in the devastating wake of Sandy,” O’Scanlon said, “My Republican colleagues and I have been calling for the use of RCAs for years and I am excited to hear that Mayor Hornik is on board. 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…
Keith A. Muccilli/For The Star-Ledger TRENTON — The state Supreme Court will hand down a long-awaited decision today on how many affordable-housing units New Jersey’s towns must provide for their lowest-income residents. At issue, again, is the…
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.
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.
InTheLobby and Capitol Quickies report that Governor Chris Chrisite told a statehouse rally of pro-life demonstrators, “I stand with you,” adding that he stands “with each and every one of those precious human lives.”
Our old Monmouth County friend Bob Jordan, now a statehouse reporter and blogger, quoted Christie on Capitol Quickies as follows:
“What we need to do each and every day is to live our lives in a way that encourages everyone to understand why this cause is so important,” Christie told those gathered. ”To show that we respect the life of every human being, and that every human being is one of God’s creatures and deserves the love and respect that God gives to all us.”
I was immediately reminded of the last time a governor stood on the statehouse steps and said “I stand with you.” That was back on June 19, 2006, five months into Jon Corzine’s term as governor. It was 11 days before Corzine and the Democratic legislature shut down the government.
That day, Corzine joined a rally of 10,000 public employees and declared, “I’ll stand with you for your pension rights …”
Maybe Trenton really has been turned upside down.
Governor Christie had quite a day today. In addition to his unequivocal remarks at the pro-life rally, the governor conditionally vetoed COAH legislation that failed to reform how affordable housing is provided in New Jersey and increases the unnecessary burden on the State’s municipalities.
In a statement announcing the veto, Christie said:
“If the goal of this legislation is to replace an already broken system for providing affordable housing with a common sense, predictable and achievable process, then this bill sorely misses the mark,” said Governor Christie. “The Senate has presented a considerably different version of the legislation I originally supported in June – one that was simple and sufficiently close to the recommendations contained in the March 19, 2010, report of the Housing Opportunity Task Force. This version perpetuates the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) nightmare by placing further burdens on municipalities and the environment while creating rather than eliminating additional bureaucracies in order to satisfy the needs of special interests. I believe this bill should be amended to return it to its original, beneficial form as passed by the Senate in June.”
The original version of S-1 passed by the Senate in June 2010 called for:
eliminating COAH and the arbitrary affordable housing numbers it assigned to municipalities
requiring that 1 out of every 10 newly constructed housing units be designated as affordable (towns with no growth would have no further affordable housing obligation other than to inventory and rehabilitate its existing affordable housing stock)
limiting State review of municipal housing plans
protection against builder’s remedy lawsuits for municipalities
elimination of commercial development fees, though residential development fees were permitted to be charged if a developer chose not to build affordable units on-site and decided to pay the residential development fee instead
In its current, unacceptable form, S-1:
requires 10% of all the housing units in every municipality in the State to be affordable
necessitates that 25% of the affordable housing obligation be met by inclusionary development, legislating sprawl by increasing the amount of mandated new housing by 500% to 700%.
creates a new regulated entity to review a municipality’s housing plans
causes towns to have to pay for two planners – one to draft the plan, and the other to certify it meets the requirements of the bill
provides no meaningful protection against builder’s remedy lawsuits
requires towns in the Highlands, Pinelands, Fort Monmouth and Meadowlands districts to have 15%to 20% of all new construction as affordable
As if that were not a full day’s work, Christie held a Town Hall Meeting in the Camden County borough of Chesilhurst this afternoon where in touted his pension and public employee health benefit reform package.
The highlights of the Governor’s “fiscal sanity” package are as follows:
Christie Reform Agenda for Public Employee Pensions – At a Glance
The current pension system is underfunded by $54 billion and, unless reforms are enacted, that number will grow to $183 billion by 2041, even if the taxpayers make all statutorily required pension fund contributions.
·Governor Christie’s reforms will reduce total pension underfunding from $183 billion in 2041 without reform to $23 billion in 2041, and
·Increase the aggregate funded ratio from the present level of 66% to more than 90% in 30 years.
A PDF of Governor Christie’s Reform Agenda proposal for pensions is attached to this release.
Christie Reform Agenda for Public Employee Health Benefits – At a Glance
Today, New Jersey’s unfunded liability, or future costs expected in the health benefits system, is $66.8 billion. New Jersey spends $4.3 billion annually on public employee and retiree health care costs, and the problem is only getting worse.
The cost for operating the health care benefits program for public employees and retirees is slowly sapping New Jersey’s budget to the point where it is becoming impossible for state and local government to fund critical priorities and bring rising deficits into line.
·Without immediate action, costs will increase by more than 40 percent over the next four years. By contrast, the average cost to an active public employee will increase by less than 10 percent over the same period.
·The cost of health benefits, as a percent of New Jersey’s annual budget, has grown from 4.5 percent in 2001 to more than 9 percent today.
Governor Christie’s reforms will restore fairness to the system by:
·Transitioning the cost-sharing in the system to a more realistic model,
·Offering more options for employees to choose from, and
·Switching to a system requiring employees to pay a percentage of their premium rather than a percentage of their salary.
Personally, I don’t think the pension reforms go far enough, but that will be the subject of a future post. For this post, I just appreciate how far we’ve come in one year under Christie’s leadership.
Governor Christie will be holding a Town Hall meeting in Middletown on Wednesday morning, 11 AM, at the VFW on Route 36. The doors open at 10:30. Seating is first come, first seated.