TRENTON — A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner that would help bolster struggling urban neighborhoods by creating more incentives for police, firefighters, teachers and sanitation workers to live and work in the same community passed the Senate today.
The bill, S-1593, is aimed at 31 cities and towns once classified as Abbott districts due to a number of factors, including their low-income levels, and would provide these city workers access to zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 that they could use to help buy or renovate a home. The applicant would be required to make a home purchased with program assistance his or her primary residence for at least five years. Down-payment loans would be forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year for five years. The unforgiven balance would become due and payable if an employee sells the property or ceases to occupy it as a primary residence.
“Teachers, firefighters, police and sanitation workers play an integral role in the upkeep, education, safety and overall success of the communities in which they serve,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “Providing these public employees with incentives to live where they work not only gives them a vested interest in these cities and towns, but also builds more cohesive, better connected communities that overcome challenges together and celebrate the shared successes.”
The governing body of any eligible municipality may opt to participate in the program by adopting an ordinance. The ordinance would identify municipal neighborhoods where the program would be applicable. The ordinance could limit eligibility for participation in the program to applicants who have been employed for a specified number of years. Otherwise, an employee would be required to have at least one year of creditable service as a member of the applicable pension system.
“It’s a win-win situation,” added Senator Turner. “As tax dollars pay for the salaries of these workers, making up the greater share of a local or school district budget, the cities would also benefit because those same employees would be contributing back to the local economy in the form of property taxes and in goods and services purchased locally.”
The bill passed by a vote of 23-14 in the Senate, and now heads to the Assembly for consideration.