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Senator Shirley K. Turner, D-Mercer, speaks in opposition to the FY 2011 Budget.

TRENTON — A bill sponsored by Senator Shirley Turner that would help bolster struggling urban neighborhoods by creating incentives for police, firefighters, teachers and sanitation workers to live and work in the same community cleared the Senate and Urban Affairs Committee 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.

“Communities are only as strong as the people that occupy them. This bill provides incentives for hard-working people to live and work in the same community, giving them a stake in its success,” said Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “It would make communities safer and more stable. Criminals would be less likely to strike when there is a local police officer living in the neighborhood and law-abiding citizens would feel safer knowing that the people who patrol the streets during the day are just down the street at night.”

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 more than 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.

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