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Embattled N.J. Housing Agency Ducks Ax

(CN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie does not have the power to abolish the state's Council on Affordable Housing, a state appeals court ruled.

The Fair Share Housing Center challenged Christie's attempt to abolish the council and transfer its powers and responsibilities to the Department of Community Affairs.

New Jersey legislators passed the Fair Housing Act in 1985 to enforce the Mount Laurel doctrine, in accordance with the state Supreme Court's 1975 order compelling New Jersey cities to develop affordable housing.

To implement the Fair Housing Act, the legislature established the 12-member Council on Affordable Housing, which could contain no more than six members of a single political party.

In 2010, Christie established a Housing Opportunity Task Force to review the Fair Housing Act and "the continued existence of COAH."

Concluding that COAH was a "costly and burdensome regulatory agency," Christie issued a reorganization plan to abolish it.

The governor argued that he had the authority to abolish COAH under the Executive Reorganization Act of 1969, but the New Jersey Appellate Division decided otherwise.

"Strictly construing the Reorganization Act, we conclude that it does not grant the Governor the power to abolish a legislatively created, representative, independent authority that is 'in but not of' the executive branch or any department in that branch of government," Judge Philip Carchman wrote for the court.

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