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Sweeney-Smith Bill Would Provide Affordable Housing for First Responders

Trenton – A Senate committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Bob Smith that would permit municipalities to establish an affordable housing preference for first responders.

“The men and women who serve their communities in emergencies deserve a housing preference so they can live in their home towns,” said Senator Sweeney. “They are always there for their neighbors and communities at times of crisis and danger, we should facilitate their ability to afford to live in their communities.”

Under the bill, S-3283, municipalities would be authorized to enter into agreements with developers to provide affordable housing preferences for low- and moderate-income first responders of up to 50 percent of the affordable units in a housing project. The preference would be established in the application selection process for available affordable units.

“Having emergency responders live in the communities they serve is an advantage for everyone,” said Senator Smith. “They are closer to the emergency locations and more familiar with the area. They are serving and protecting their home communities.”

First responders are defined as a law enforcement officer, paid or volunteer firefighter, emergency, ambulance, or rescue squad member, or anyone who is dispatched to the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation to provide medical care or other assistance.

The bill, approved by the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, would apply to first responders who have served in that capacity for at least 2 years.

Applicants who are first responders that apply within 90 days of the initial 120-day marketing period would receive preference to rent a unit in a unit set aside for preference housing. If any of the units subject to the preference are available after the first 90 days of the initial 120-day period, then applicants from the general public would be considered for occupancy. After the 120-day marketing period, previously qualified and future qualified applicants who are first responders would be placed on a special and general waiting list.

Current law allows municipalities to establish an affordable housing preference for veterans who qualify for affordable housing.