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Chris Christie Loses Appeal of Housing Agency Dispute

The New Jersey Supreme Court refused to block a decision that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t have the right to use a reorganization plan to abolish a housing agency created by the state Legislature.

The Appellate Division had ruled March 8 that Christie exceeded his authority by reorganizing to eliminate the Council on Affordable Housing and transferring its duties to the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court denied his request to block that ruling.

“This matter having been duly presented to the court, it is ordered that the motion of the Department of Community Affairs for stay is denied,” according to an order witnessed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner that was filed June 8 in Trenton, the state capital.

In denying Christie, the appellate division ruled that the Legislature had the power to create, abolish and alter agencies. Christie had argued that he has the power to get rid of an independent agency created by the Legislature as long as it was “in but not of” a department in the state’s executive branch.

Reorganization Plan

Michael Drewniak, a Christie spokesman, said today that the governor submitted a reorganization plan to the Legislature in June 2011. Lawmakers chose not to invalidate the plan within 60 days, as was their right, allowing it to move forward, Drewniak said in an e-mailed statement.

“That distinction refutes the narrative of unilateral action by the executive branch,” Drewniak said. “It is well known that there are many on both sides of the aisle in the Legislature who agree that COAH has been bad for New Jersey with all its onerous and ineffective demands on municipalities.”

He said the state Senate supported legislation that would eliminate COAH.

“Now that the Supreme Court has turned down the governor’s request for a stay, our communities should be able to get back to creating the homes our residents want,” said Staci Berger, director of policy and advocacy at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, in a statement.

Christie created a task force in January 2010 to review the housing agency. In its June 2011 reorganization plan, the state said the transfer of the council’s duties would cut costs and “reduce the unnecessary complexity of affordable housing administration in New Jersey,” according to court papers.

The council was created under the state’s 1985 Fair Housing Act, which required municipalities to provide for the development of affordable housing. The state Legislature set the council, which helped develop and implement affordable housing policies, at 12 members and said no more than six could be of the same political party.

The case is In re Plan for the Abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing, A-6301-10T4, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.

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