TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator James Beach and Senator Shirley K. Turner that would establish rules and regulations to provide veterans preference for affordable housing in certain housing projects was approved today by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
The bill (S-744) would provide first priority to homeless veterans, second priority to disabled veterans and third priority to family members who are primary residential caregivers to disabled veterans residing with them. Applicants for the housing preference would also be required to meet the income requirements to be eligible for the benefit.
In 2015, First Lady Michelle Obama issued a challenge to local government officials to end veteran homelessness. Approximately three dozen of New Jersey municipal and county officials have accepted the challenge.
“New Jersey must provide as much assistance as possible to veterans and their families in need of housing,” said Senator Beach. “These are men and women who have sacrificed an incredible amount so that we are protected, and as a state it is our obligation to repay them. Our ultimate goal must be to end veteran homelessness statewide, and this helps to move us in that direction.”
The bill would define a “Veteran” as any New Jersey resident who was honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. The bill also applies to American Merchant Marine who served during World War II and is declared by the Federal Department of Defense to be eligible for federal veteran’s benefits.
“Disabled Veteran” is defined as any New Jersey resident who was honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service in any branch of the United States Armed Forces and who has been declared by the federal Veterans Administration to have a service-connected disability.
“Last winter, New Jersey had about 700 homeless veterans living in shelters, transitional housing or out on the streets. These are men and women who proudly served our country who we, as a society owe more than just gratitude. It is the right thing to provide them with the help they need. It is also a moral imperative,” said Senator Turner.
According to a report released by Monarch Housing Associates, in 2015 there were 695 veterans living in shelters, transitional housing, or out on the streets including members of their families, veteran homelessness affected 778 people. Approximately 12 percent or 80 veteran households were unsheltered, with the rest of them living in transitional housing or emergency shelters.
The committee approved the bill by a vote of 5-0. It next heads to the full Senate.