The Statehouse in Trenton
By Joshua Burd
A bill that would create a $100 million rental assistance program in New Jersey — one that has drawn support from the apartment industry — is now awaiting action by Gov. Phil Murphy.
The New Jersey Apartment Association on Friday praised state lawmakers for passing the measure in both the Senate and Assembly, as both houses look to provide additional economic relief to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would establish what’s known as the 2020 New Jersey Emergency Rental Assistance Program, expanding upon an existing homelessness program to assist not only low- and moderate-income families, but also middle-income residents and those in workforce housing.
“This bill will truly help those in need by utilizing the infrastructure of an existing rental assistance program, maximizing the dollars allocated, and mitigating the potential for fraud,” said David Brogan, the NJAA’s executive director. “The sponsors deserve a lot of credit for this thoughtfully crafted legislation.”
Under the legislation, which passed as S2332 and A3956, the program would make direct payments to landlords for certain tenants who are at least 30 days past due, are unable to pay rent without assistance and have suffered a demonstrable loss in income due to the pandemic. The bill also aims to support medium-income renters, which includes households between 80 percent and 120 percent of area median income, along with low- and moderate-income residents.
The legislation directs the state Department of Community Affairs, which would administer the relief, to first use federal funds for the program. Under a recent amendment, that includes uncommitted, unexpended federal funds under the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.
The NJAA called on Murphy to sign the bill, noting that its members continue to work with affected tenants by creating alternate payment plans and waiving late fees. But it said state and federal rental assistance for those impacted by COVID-19 “is absolutely necessary to help tenants, landlords, municipalities and the entire multifamily ecosystem.”
“The NJAA would like to thank Senate President Sweeney, Senator Stack, and Assembly members Chaparro, Mukherji and Wimberly for their leadership on this bill,” Brogan continued. “Without rent revenue, tenants will lose their homes, property owners won’t be able to pay their financial obligations, thousands of multifamily employees will lose their jobs, vendors will no longer be contracted, and municipalities will see a loss of much needed property tax revenue.
“This legislation does a great deal toward addressing all of those problems in an intelligent way, and we urge Governor Murphy to sign the legislation as soon as possible.”