An aerial view of the Statehouse in Trenton
By Joshua Burd
A bill that would provide $350 million in rental assistance to apartment landlords and tenants has moved ahead in the state Senate, drawing support from the multifamily industry.
The New Jersey Apartment Association noted that the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Brian Stack, calls for using federal COVID-19 relief funds to allow landlords to apply for financial assistance for unpaid rent. The group is now calling for the measure to be considered by the full Senate after being unanimously passed by the chamber’s Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“Make no mistake, this is a bill that helps both landlords and tenants equally,” said David Brogan, the NJAA’s executive director. “Unlike other bills that attempt to shift the financial burden from tenants to landlords without providing any assistance, this bill is a real solution to the problems we collectively face.”
Brogan touted the bill, S3357, while thanking Stack for “taking a leadership role” on the issue and applauding the action by the Senate committee. He noted that New Jersey received $589 million in rental assistance from the federal relief bill passed in December, while the state may receive additional funds from the $1.9 trillion package now being debated in Congress.
S3357 would allow the state to use such funds by creating the Landlord Emergency Compensation Program. The measure stands in contrast to others that have been introduced by lawmakers in response to the pandemic, including one that would up give tenants up to 30 months to repay back rent, which the NJAA said would incentivize them to stop paying altogether and worsen the economic impact on landlords.
“The multifamily ecosystem consists of tenants, landlords, homeowners, municipalities and the state,” Brogan said. “They are inextricably connected, so if rent revenue doesn’t come in, it impacts all of the other components of the ecosystem.”
He added that the multifamily industry pays more than $1 billion in property taxes annually, which the NJAA says could plummet if rent revenue diminishes. The association has also argued in recent months that such a scenario could trigger a massive property tax shift onto homeowners.
“The only way to prevent this property tax shift is direct rental assistance,” Brogan said. “Senator Stack and Senate President Sweeney were early advocates for rental assistance, which laid the groundwork for one of the first rental assistance programs in the country. Their forward thinking will not only help tenants and landlords, it will help homeowners, municipalities and the state as a whole.”
He added: “Throughout this pandemic, some have tried to pit tenants against landlords and vice versa. But S3357, which was released from committee today looks at the problem holistically and recognizes that we are truly in this together. Now, with a significant funding source, which NJAA has been calling for since April, we can start helping both tenants and landlords in a truly meaningful way.”