The Statehouse in Trenton
By Joshua Burd
State officials are rolling out another $353 million in rental assistance, in a move that should help both residents and apartment landlords who face mounting revenue shortfalls.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver announced Tuesday that the state would open applications on March 22 for the second phase of its COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which is being funded by recent federal legislation. The funds will support low- and moderate-income households that have had a substantial reduction in income as a result of the pandemic, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“This pandemic has created a crisis for so many of our fellow New Jerseyans who are struggling to pay their rent because they’ve lost jobs or aren’t bringing home as much money as they once did,” said Oliver, who also leads the state’s Department of Community Affairs. “Governor (Phil) Murphy and I urge people in this situation to quickly apply to the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program Phase II. We’ve been in these difficult times for more than a year as a nation and state and we want to help as many people as possible pay their rent, including assisting with overdue rent, to promote housing stability and prevent homelessness.”
In Tuesday’s announcement, Oliver said more than 15,000 households benefitted from the first phase of the state’s COVID-19 rental assistance program, which launched in July 2020 in response to the pandemic. The Murphy administration ultimately helped 7,000 more households than originally anticipated with the $91.75 million allocated in the initial tranche.
The New Jersey Apartment Association, which has been calling on the state to implement and disburse rental assistance from its allocation of federal funds, welcomed the news.
“The New Jersey Apartment Association and its members are encouraged by the news that the state rental assistance program will be opening shortly, as many landlords have gone a year without rent revenue,” David Brogan, the NJAA’s executive director. “Since April 2020, NJAA has been calling on the state and federal government to provide meaningful, broad-based rental assistance. Now that we have the resources that both landlords and tenants so desperately need, it is imperative that we get this money disbursed as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Brogan also noted that New Jersey is slated to receive more than $1 billion in federal funds that are earmarked for rental assistance to help those making less than 80 percent of the area median income, “but there is a large swath of middle-income tenants who suffered job losses that will be left out.” To that end, he urged state officials to expand their efforts by creating a middle-class rental assistance program “as soon as possible to help those impacted individuals as well.”
“Decision makers need to recognize that failing to provide necessary rental assistance to those in need will have a domino effect on tenants, landlords, homeowners, municipalities and the state,” Brogan said. “The multifamily industry pays over a billion dollars a year in property taxes. Without rent revenue from either tenants or the government, there will be a massive property tax shift onto homeowners, which no one wants. However, given that the state has significant resources at their disposal, even beyond the billion dollars in federal rental assistance, it is incumbent upon the governor to allocate those resources appropriately.”
Full details of the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program can found in Tuesday’s announcement.