COAH is the Council on Affordable Housing which was established under the Fair Housing Act of 1985, the legislative response to the Mt. Laurel II decision. COAH created rules and procedures for communities to follow to satisfy their constitutional obligation to build affordable housing. The regulations that have been issued by COAH have been divided into “rounds.” Round One covered the time period from 1987 to 1993. Round Two covered the period from 1993 through 1999. Round Three was originally intended to pick up more or less where Round Two left off. Under all of these regulations, towns were given the option of either:
1) filing affordable housing plans with COAH (who would review for compliance), or
2) doing nothing and risking a “builder’s remedy lawsuit” (which is explained later).
If a community filed an affordable housing plan with COAH that was deemed complete and satisfactory, the municipality would receive what is called “Substantive Certification.” Substantive Certification provided towns with a period of immunity from builder’s remedy lawsuits. Montvale filed an affordable housing plan in 2000 for Round Two and received Substantive Certification in 2004. Montvale filed its Round Three plan in 2008, and that application was deemed complete; however, through no fault of the Borough’s, COAH stopped issuing Substantive Certifications in 2010. The agency ceased issuing certifications as they had failed to approve constitutionally-compliant regulations for Round Three. Now, due to a variety of executive and judicial decisions, COAH is no longer reviewing affordable housing plans. As a result, Montvale has not received Substantive Certification for Round Three.