“If it wasn’t for the housing voucher I wouldn’t be able to get by,” said Oakhurst resident John Boross.
Boross is just one of 157,000 New Jersey residents who rely on the federal Housing Choice Voucher program to afford their own homes. New Jersey faces a severe affordable housing crisis that may worsen if the Housing Choice Voucher program is not fully funded in the FY 2018 federal budget. Currently, only one in four household in need of federal rental assistance is receiving it.
“When I was homeless, I did not have medication and now I am stable,” says John. “The help that the voucher gives me is tremendous, it’s a difference of $500 a month and with that I can pay my electric, hospital and gas bills and have a little bit of money left over at the end of the month to buy a book or CD. Without it, I’d be stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Unfortunately, Boross’ story of struggling with homelessness is not unique.
“I lived in about four different places in the span of about six months, including a hotel. It was difficult. I lived in a respite house, too, so I knew once I got settled in there I was very happy to just put down some roots,” said Boross.
At the end of 2017, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) must to immediately implement an Obama-era rule that recalculates the subsidy amount for families receiving Section 8 public housing vouchers.
Monarch’s Taiisa Kelly explained how the recalculation of Housing Choice Vouchers will assist very low-income households in affording rent.
“The current rent calculation is based on a geographical or statistical area, and in New Jersey, it encompasses usually about two counties. So, for example in Monmouth and Ocean it encompasses both communities and it’s set for the whole area. The challenges is that there might be towns within those communities where rents might be much higher than what fair market rate is set at, so a person with a voucher is not able to rent in certain communities because it’s unaffordable and out of reach,” said Taiisa Kelly, senior associate with Monarch Housing.
The new subsidy calculations will allow very low-income households to truly use Housing Choice Vouchers to access communities of choice.
“So for people within those areas, it means they can take their housing voucher and move to an apartment in an area that has better schools, less crime and offers more availability for their family to be able to thrive,” said Arnold Cohen from the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey.