TRENTON, NJ—In a unanimous decision, the NewJersey Supreme Court dealt a devastating setback to the Council onAffordable Housing (COAH), determining that COAH had failed to meetits obligation to develop rules governing municipal compliance withaffordable housing obligations. The court effectively dissolvedprovisions of the Fair Housing Act that required housing advocatesto challenge municipal regulations through administrativeprocedures, and permitted those challenges to go back to the courtsystem.

Noting that COAH was required to develop a set of rules calledthe “Third Round Rules,” but had not done so, the court said, “Wethus are in the exceptional situation in which the administrativeprocess has become nonfunctioning, rendering futile the FHA'sadministrative remedy. The FHA'sexhaustion-of-administrative-remedies requirement, which staves offcivil actions, is premised on the existence of a functioningagency, not a moribund one.” The court concluded that “Due toCOAH's inaction, we agree that there no longer exists a legitimatebasis to block access to the courts.”

The court ordered a 30-day transition period in which somechallenges would be permitted to move to the court system andothers would need to be certified separately. The court also saidits decision did not prevent COAH from acting to develop the ThirdRound Rules, nor did it block the state legislature from“considering alternative statutory remedies to the presentFHA.”

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Steve Lubetkin

Steve Lubetkin is the New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for He is currently filling in covering Chicago and Midwest markets until a new permanent editor is named. He previously filled in covering Atlanta. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. His audio and video work for has been honored by the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced audio podcasts on CRE topics for the NAR Commercial Division and the CCIM Institute. Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies. Steve also reports on-camera and covers conferences for, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC. Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996. Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional. You can email Steve at [email protected].