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July 10, 2013 Supreme Court COAH Decision

 

In re Plan for the Abolition of Council On Affordable Housing. The Court held that because COAH is an independent agency, the Governor did not have the authority under the Reorganization Act to abolish it and transfer its powers to the Department of Community Affairs. The Court was careful to state more than once that it takes no position on whether COAH should or should not exist. Rather, it was deciding the issue, not previously addressed, as to whether the Reorganization Act extends to independent agencies (agencies that are “in but not of” the Executive Branch), or whether it is limited solely to agencies that are within the Executive Branch.) The Court concluded the Act applies only to the latter. The Court stated: “As Judge Carchman [of the Appellate Division] aptly noted, ‘[t]he issue in this case is not whether COAH should or should not be an active participant in developing and implementing policies for affordable housing in New Jersey. Recent events have demonstrated that both the Legislature and the Governor are committed to charting another course for the future of affordable housing in this State. [In re COAH, supra, 424 N.J. Super. at 438.]’ We do not attempt to chart that course in this opinion. Instead, we examine the process the law requires. The plain language of the Reorganization Act does not authorize the Chief Executive to abolish an independent agency like COAH. If the Governor and the Legislature wish to abolish COAH, they must take another path.” The import of the decision for municipalities is that COAH continues to exist. To see a syllabus of the decision, click here.

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