By Joshua Burd
State officials have unveiled a new $50 million loan program aimed at funding 400 apartments for disabled veterans, homeless individuals and other residents with special needs.
Spearheaded by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, the program is available to eligible not-for-profit and for-profit developers, as well as government entities at the state, county and local level for new construction or the rehabilitation of housing, the agency said in a news release. The HMFA has established priorities for awarding the limited funding, giving weight to developments that maximize long-term affordability of at least 30 years, minimize temporary or permanent displacement and demonstrate appropriate location and design.
Developers under the Special Needs Housing Subsidy Loan Program can qualify for loans of up to $500,000 for special needs-only projects, the news release said. For multifamily projects, the maximum loan amount may not exceed $125,000 per unit, with a maximum of five units per project.
“We all know or help care for someone with special needs — whether it be a veteran, at-risk youth or someone facing developmental differences or mental health challenges,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs and the HMFA’s board chair. “This funding will go directly to providing housing and compassionate care for these individuals and their families. Governor Murphy and I are committed to finding sustainable, supportive housing solutions for residents, which is why we applaud this critical investment.”
Developers and sponsors proposing a project must identify the target population and a service provider agency for their building, HMFA said. The populations to be served under the program include:
- Disabled and homeless veterans
- Homeless individuals and families
- Individuals with mental illness and physical and developmental disabilities
- Victims of domestic violence
- Individuals in treatment for substance abuse
- Ex-offenders and youth offenders
- Youth aging out of foster care
- Runaway and homeless youth
- Individuals with AIDS/HIV
- Individuals 18 years and over coming out of nursing homes
- Individuals in other emerging special needs groups identified by state agencies
The state touted the initiative as the first new major funding source in seven years to provide supportive and affordable housing opportunities statewide. The program builds on HMFA’s former Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, which had helped create affordable housing with needed supportive services for nearly 1,600 families and individuals since 2005.
To ensure that the HMFA can provide funding for stable, supportive homes for special needs residents, it will finance the new program through bonding and its own contributions. The SNHSLP will enable vulnerable residents to live independently in communities of their choice with supportive services as alternatives to institutionalization or homelessness, which can also help reduce the impact on costs and resources.
State officials unveiled the program this week during the grand opening of Freedom Village at West Windsor, which provides 72 apartments affordable to families, including 18 for residents with special needs, the news release said. HMFA provided the $19.6 million development, built by the nonprofit Project Freedom, with 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which generated $13.3 million in private equity.
“Today, we are announcing long overdue funding that will enable New Jersey residents with a wide range of special needs to live independently, in stable homes, integrated in the community,” said Charles A. Richman, the agency’s executive director. “Providing housing for individuals with special needs, like Freedom Village at West Windsor, is a challenge nationally and even more so in New Jersey, where housing costs are high and funding resources for special needs housing can be limited. This critical program will enable us to expand opportunities for residents with special needs to live and fully integrate into communities.”
The HMFA has posted guidelines for developers interested in applying for the funding.