Municipalities may soon have an idea of how to meet their affordable housing mandates, as a state board meets today for the first time in nearly a year to discuss and possibly approve new rules.
In September, the state Supreme Court gave New Jersey five months to draft new rules for how quotas for low- and middle-income housing are calculated. That deadline was extended to May 1 earlier this year with a November date for implementation.
The Council on Affordable Housing, the regulating body that oversees such mandates, will meet for the first time in nearly a year Wednesday — one day before the court-mandated deadline. So far, the council hasn’t made the proposed rules public but they are expected to be released at the 9:30 a.m. meeting in Trenton.
“I think we’re all waiting with bated breath,” said Mike Cerra, director of government affairs for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
Cerra said the state hasn’t solicited comment from stakeholders, but the league has made its feelings on the issue known publicly. The league has advocated for more flexible rules that reflect the impact of transportation requirements and other state regulations that limit available land for building, he said.
Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters, who was named league president in November, is also a council member.
Kevin Walsh, associate director of the advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, said he doesn’t expect a lot given the current administration’s history on affordable housing.
“There will be an opportunity to comment, but we don’t know whether those comments will be taken seriously,” he said.
With such a short timetable for adoption and implementation of the new rules, Walsh said it will be difficult to make any changes, assuming the council actually approves the proposed rules Wednesday.
In addition to the rules, COAH’s agenda includes approval of the minutes to its last meeting, on May 1, 2013; the election of new officers; and the approval of a 2014 meeting schedule.
The agenda conspicuously does not include a discussion of affordable housing trust funds, which Gov. Chris Christie threatened to sieze. A court decision prevented that, but municipalities have not received guidance on whether they can utilize the money they collected from developers to help fund affordable housing projects.
Last year, every municipality in the state was required to submit documentation on the affordable housing units they had planned and completed. An analysis by The Press of Atlantic City found that fewer than half of those projects municipalities submitted to the state have actually been built.
Cerra said the trust funds have been treated as a separate issue from the affordable housing rules so far.
“It appears to be staying on that parallel track,” he said. “But, really, it’s anyone’s guess.”
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