NJ Supreme Court Stays Order Establishing Deadline for COAH to Promulgate Fair Housing Rules

Last week, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ordered the New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) to sit down and get to work. The agency had requested an extension of time to promulgate new fair housing regulations, as required by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in its decision last September

In response to the Appellate Division’s order, COAH asked the Supreme Court of New Jersey to issue a stay while the high court considers COAH’s pending motion to extend the deadlines for completing the latest version of its Third Round rules. On March 10, 2014, the court agreed to enter a stay.  The meeting of COAH scheduled for March 12, 2014 was cancelled.

As we have previously discussed on this Government & Law Blog, the New Jersey State Supreme Court rejected the latest iteration of COAH’s “third round” regulations, which proposed a “growth share” methodology for assessing prospective need in allocating a municipality’s fair share of the region’s need for affordable housing. It set a deadline of February 26, 2014 for COAH to issue new regulations in compliance with the Fair Housing Act.

In a motion filed with the State Supreme Court in February, COAH acknowledged that it would not meet the deadline and requested additional time. Even prior to the delays, the Fair Share Housing Center requested that the Appellate Division designate a court-appointed monitor to take over COAH’s duties and carry out the Supreme Court order. It argued that COAH had not yet met since the September 2013 decision, despite the fact that the State Supreme Court ordered that new rules must be drafted, published for public comment, and then adopted by COAH by February 26, 2014.

In its decision, issued March 7, 2014, the Appellate Division declined to order what it characterized as the “extraordinary relief” of appointing a special master to oversee the process of issuing new regulations. However, it did establish a very specific timeline during which COAH must issue new regulations, after finding that the agency not only failed to carry out the state Supreme Court’s mandate, but also failed to offer any plausible explanation.

The order required COAH to meet by March 12, draft new rules and post them for public comment by March 21, meet on March 26 to review and adopt the rules, meet on May 14 to consider any amendments and adopt the rules.  This timetable is now in a state of flux as a result of the stay issued by the State Supreme Court.

We will be closely monitoring the ongoing litigation and will provide updates as they become available.

For more information about this case or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.

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