DCA Commissioner Doria: Setting the Record  Straight About COAH

Fact Sheet Available Online to Rectify COAH Misnomers

TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria issued the following statement today regarding COAH:

“Within the last several weeks many inaccurate statements have been disseminated regarding the process by which we are trying to provide hard working New Jersey residents with the affordable housing opportunities they deserve.  Governor Corzine and I believe it is in the public’s best interest to set the record straight about these misnomers so that we can effectively continue to ensure that working families across this state have a place to live.

“First, it is important to address the stigma about affordable housing that has been manipulated to justify exclusion of this housing from some communities.  Let me be clear: affordable housing is for hard working men and women who simply seek a home of their own.  In Bergen County, a family of four making up to $61,658 would be eligible for affordable housing.  In Hunterdon County a family of four making up to $77,360 would be eligible and in Ocean County, a family of four making up to $67,653 would be eligible.  These examples represent people we all know, the hard working yet struggling individuals who want to live closer to their place of employment or just want to be near their families, or maybe just want to remain in the community in which they grew up.  That is what we mean when we say affordable housing.  It is housing for your children who have now grown up and entered the workforce but cannot afford a home in their own community.  It is housing for parents, brothers, sisters, friends and loved ones.  It is housing for everyone from teachers and firefighters, to child care workers and physician's assistants - all who work hard day in and day out but simply cannot afford a home in the towns in which they work.  We cannot in good conscience deny these people the affordable homes they need and deserve.

“Additionally, there have been criticisms about the amount of affordable housing requested under COAH’s revised third round rules.  What these statements have ignored is the fact that COAH is allowing municipalities to build affordable housing based only on the actual growth that occurs in their communities.  Essentially, you must only build affordable housing when you build market rate housing and commercial development.  Court decisions have long established the constitutional requirement for affordable housing and the requirements that municipalities plan to build affordable housing to meet COAH’s projections.  The municipalities, however, are only responsible for building affordable housing in relation to the actual growth that occurs.  COAH has made this fact very clear through various workshops, training sessions and outreach to communities.  Regretfully, there are those who choose to ignore this fact in order to deter affordable housing from being built within their communities.

“Claims that affordable housing will result in hundreds of thousands of affordable and market rate housing units across the state at great expense to the taxpayers are also mistaken and based on reverse logic.  COAH’s rules state that for every five housing units built by a municipality, one of them must be an affordable unit.  This does not mean, as some have tried to imply, that if a municipality builds 20 affordable units they must then build 80 market rate units. 

“There is also the contention that affordable housing will drive up property taxes.  This is simply untrue.  Municipalities have many ways to meet affordable housing requirements without raising property taxes.  They can collect local development fees based on market rate housing and commercial development.   This money can be kept locally by towns participating with COAH and they will have priority access to a new statewide pool of funding for affordable housing, which is expected to provide up to $160 million each year.  Currently, over $200 million in unspent development fee funds are sitting in municipal affordable housing trust funds.  Additionally, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 just signed into law in July will bring millions of dollars of new money into New Jersey.  The private sector can contribute as well. 

“Further, municipalities’ affordable housing obligations are based on growth share obligation, which says that one unit among every five housing units created in a municipality must be affordable and one affordable housing unit must be provided for every 16 jobs created in a municipality, measured by new commercial development.  But again, a municipality is only responsible for building affordable housing when they have built market rate housing and commercial development.  Because affordable housing must only be built if market rate or commercial development takes place, it is implausible to blame hard working individuals simply seeking their own piece of the American Dream for any increase in taxes.

“It has also been suggested that COAH will make towns build on various pieces of land that are obviously unfit to have housing on them.  This is absolutely false.  COAH would not approve affordable housing proposed by the municipality on environmentally sensitive sites and follows all DEP and other rules in place to protect the environment and our State's water supply.  Furthermore, COAH does not dictate where municipalities build affordable housing.  That is a decision we leave to the municipality because we believe municipalities know best where and how to plan within their own community.  If a municipality believes their vacant land is less than what COAH thinks it to be, they can certainly contact COAH to discuss the issue as many municipalities already have done.

“As part of our effort to clear the air about COAH, we now have a fact sheet available on COAH’s website that will provide residents with accurate information regarding what affordable housing is and how COAH works.  This sheet is available at: http://www.nj.gov/dca/.

“Despite the best efforts of some to distort COAH’s purpose and mission to help the people of New Jersey attain the affordable housing they sorely need, we continue to move forward with the implementation of the third round rules.  As Governor Corzine has stated, we have a moral and constitutional obligation to provide access to affordable housing in every community in the state. We encourage municipalities to continue planning and engage in the COAH process as soon as possible.”