Life after COAH:
An Update for Owners, Tenants and Applicants of Affordable Housing
by Frank Piazza
There has been a lot of news, recently, about the demise of COAH (New Jersey Council on Affordable Housing), under which the lion’s share of affordable housing has been built in New Jersey over the last 25 years. In September, Governor Christie officially dissolved this 12-member Board and reorganized its functions in the Department of Community Affairs. This brief article will provide some guidance for the many owners, tenants and applicants of affordable housing, who have questions and concerns about how the reorganization affects them.
COAH was created under the Fair Housing Act in 1985 to help
municipalities meet their constitutional obligation to provide opportunities
for low- and moderate- income housing. The State estimates that more than 60,000 homes were created for sale or
rent under the Fair Housing Act, and another almost 15,000 were rehabilitated.
Affordable homes and rental apartments created under the
Fair Housing Act have recorded deed restrictions that “run with the property,”
requiring the owner to maintain the status of the unit as an affordable home
for a specified length of time – sometimes in perpetuity. In addition to the specific requirements set
forth in a particular deed restriction, most affordable homes (sales and
rentals) are regulated under the Uniform Housing
Affordability Controls (N.J.A.C. 5:80-26.1 et. seq.) - a body of regulation
fondly referred to as UHAC that is governed by the New Jersey Housing and
Mortgage Finance Agency.
Among other things, the deed restrictions and “UHAC”
the Affirmative Marketing of affordable units;
- Require all affordable housing units be made available to the general public;
- Limit the prices of sales units at resale;
- Limit the amount of a mortgage for sales units when refinanced;
- Limit the annual increase in rents for tenants and set rental rates for vacant apartments;
- Require buyers of sales units and applicants for rental units to be income-qualified and certified as such by an administrative agent;
- Prohibit the rental of sales units and regulate the sale of rental units;
- Regulate the modification of affordable units; and
- Require all affordable housing units to be monitored by the municipality in which they are located.
None of these requirements were dissolved with COAH. Rather, the responsibility to enforce them
was transferred from COAH to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). To this end, a new entity within the DCA was
established: Local Planning Services.
So, if you own an affordable home, you are still required to
fulfill your responsibility under the deed restrictions and the law. If you have an ownership unit, it must be
your principal residence, and you must contact your Administrative Agent to
sell, refinance or modify your home. If
you are a landlord of an affordable rental unit, your tenants must be certified
by the Administrative Agent, and your rents and rent increases must comply with
the law. If you are an applicant, you
must submit to the income certification process coordinated by the
New affordable housing units continue to be built throughout
the State, even in the absence of COAH. The constitutional obligation remains, as does the Fair Housing Act, the
Uniform Housing Affordability Controls, as well as an extensive body of Local
Affordable Housing Plans and Ordinances. So, for the moment, the more things change, the more they seem to stay
is the President of Piazza & Associates, Inc. - administrators of
affordable housing programs throughout the State of New Jersey since 1994.