Christie Can’t Shutter Housing Agency, N.J. Court Rules

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doesn’t have the power to abolish a housing agency created by the state Legislature, the state Supreme Court said, upholding a lower-court ruling.

The Appellate Division had ruled March 8 that Christie exceeded his authority by eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing and transferring its duties to the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. The Supreme Court agreed today, ruling 5-2 that the law Christie relied on extends his authority only to agencies “of the executive branch.”

“The plain language of the Reorganization Act does not authorize the chief executive to abolish an independent agency like COAH,” Chief Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the majority. “If the governor and the Legislature wish to abolish COAH, they must take another path.”

Christie, a Republican who’s up for re-election, 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 complexity of affordable-housing administration in New Jersey, according to court papers.

Christie, 50, said today that the state high court “continues to blindly perpetuate its failed social experiment in housing” while ignoring that both elected branches of government approved the plan to eliminate COAH.

‘Activist Opinion’

“The chief justice’s activist opinion arrogantly bolsters another of the failures he and his colleagues have foisted on New Jersey taxpayers,” Christie said in a statement. “This only steels my determination to continue to fight to bring common sense back to New Jersey’s judiciary.”

The council, which helped develop and implement affordable-housing policies, was created under the state’s 1985 Fair Housing Act, which required municipalities to provide for the development of such housing.

The case is In re Plan for the Abolition of the Council on Affordable Housing, A-127-11, Supreme Court of New Jersey (Trenton).

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