TRENTON – Senators Shirley K. Turner and Ronald L. Rice hailed the passage of their bill to appropriate an additional $15 million to the low-income rental assistance program signed into law over the summer by the Senate today.
“A permanent home is the essential first step for a family rise out of poverty and start realizing the American dream,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “That permanent address is the key to so many parts of a good life. It makes it easier to find and keep a quality job, allows children to concentrate better on their schoolwork and can have great benefits to personal health. The myriad of other ways the State supports its residents are vastly more effective when the recipient has a home of their own.”
The bill that began the program, S-357, would appropriate $10 million for the establishment of a State rental assistance program for low income individuals or households, similar to the federal Section 8 program. The program would be administered by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). These rental assistance grants will go to households that are eligible for Section 8 vouchers but do not receive them due to a lack of federal funds. Under the bill, assistance to an individual or household under the State program would be terminated upon the award of federal Section 8 rental assistance to that same individual or household.
The new bill, S-2067, adds an additional $15 million to the program for the coming year. The committee also amended it to include a provision that all non-senior, non-disabled recipients of the grants would be required to take advantage of workforce training available through their local One-Stop Career Counseling Center.
“Everybody knows that New Jersey’s cost of living is among the highest in the nation. This is a major issue for the state, and when the federal government continually threatens to cut funding for affordable housing, it is clear that the State needs to help,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex and Chairman of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “New Jersey will never see true prosperity until we can help people who are struggling to make ends meet due to New Jersey’s expensive housing market.”
Senator Rice also noted that as many as 100,000 New Jersey residents are on the Section 8 waiting list and are of every race and creed and can be found in towns throughout New Jersey. The $25 million will help close to 2,000 people get off the waiting list and into a safe, clean apartment.
“$25 million is not nearly enough to full address the affordable housing problems many New Jersey families face,” added Senator Rice. “But it is a good first step in the right direction, and I expect that number to get bigger over the next few years. There are a lot of hard working families that need a little help to afford just the basics, and we can’t rest until they all have what they need.”
“The fact that New Jersey has to put up $25 million dollars to help working families find a respectable place to live when the budget is of such a great concern shows how the failed social and economic policies of the Bush Administration are continuing to hurt New Jersey. The attempts this year to cut the Section 8 program were simply unconscionable. We need to be eternally vigilant in keeping a close eye on the federal government’s policies and make sure that the poor are left to fight for themselves over the next four years,” added Senator Turner.
S-2067 passed the Senate unanimously. It now goes to the Assembly for their approval.