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 signed into law today.
The law (S-744) provides 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 for affordable housing in housing projects that are either operated by a housing authority, financed by a county improvement authority, or are part of a redevelopment project. All applicants for the housing preference are also required to meet the income requirements to be eligible for the benefit.
Under the law, the Commissioner of Community Affairs is directed to adopt rules and regulations to establish the standards for the veterans’ preference.
“To have shelter is a basic human need,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington, Camden). “This law will provide much needed assistance to veterans and their families in need of housing. They have served our nation with honor, and deserve to live with dignity.”
The law defines 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 any honorably discharged member of the American Merchant Marine who served during World War II and is declared by the U.S. 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.
“An affordable housing preference for those who served our country is a long overdue step in the right direction to end veteran homelessness in New Jersey,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon, Mercer). “Our military men and women sacrificed to serve our country to keep us safe. At the very least, they deserve the opportunity for a safe, affordable place to call home.”
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 law takes effect on the first day of the third month next following enactment.