Policy Priorities Pushed for Legislation to Expand Lifetime Emergency Assistance Program in Effort to Prevent Homelessness
New Jersey Senate and Assembly committees recently passed several of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s (HCDNNJ’s) policy priorities.
The committees advanced bills that fall into four categories:
- targeting blight,
- preventing homelessness,
- mitigating foreclosure, and
- improving housing conditions.
HCDNNJ’s advocacy efforts were instrumental in getting the bills passed out of their committees.
“We are working hard to build a thriving New Jersey and advancing these policies will help us reach that goal,” said Arnold Cohen, senior policy coordinator at HCDNNJ. “We applaud the committees for moving these bills and thank the sponsors for their leadership and tenacity.”
HCDNNJ advocated for several years for a bill that permits land banking, and this year representatives from the organization testified to the New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee in support of land banking as a creative solution for abandoned properties. The Senate and Assembly bill (S.1214/A.3797) introduced by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cruz-Perez would allow municipalities to create land banks.
Land banks are an important tool used in many other states to reclaim abandoned properties to restore economic vitality and investments in dis-invested neighborhoods. The Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee passed the bill on September 13 and the Senate Economic Growth Committee on October 18.
During HCDNNJ’s annual Hill Day, its members advocated to expand emergency assistance benefits to prevent homelessness. Discussions with staff and legislators led to the introduction of a bill (S.1965/A.1887) that would make changes to some of New Jersey’s Emergency Assistance Program’s regulations.
Sponsored by Senator Sweeney and Assemblyman Mukherji, the legislation would expand limitations on lifetime aid by amending existing regulations. Assistance from the previous seven years would not be counted towards the lifetime cap. The Senate passed the bill unanimously on June 7 and the Assembly Human Services Committee passed it on October 18. The bill was referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Foreclosure is another major housing issue HCDNNJ prioritizes because New Jersey continues to have one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation. Legislation (A.664/S.1244) sponsored by Assemblywoman Jasey and Senator Rice would dedicate foreclosure filing fees and fines to administer the New Jersey Judiciary’s Foreclosure Mediation Program.
This program provides certain homeowners in foreclosure a right to mediation – a process to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by coming up with an alternate solution that benefits both borrowers and lenders. The Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee passed the bill on October 22.
The final bill HCDNNJ has been advocating for (A.1433/S. 2882) would address mold in homes. There are currently no regulations or standards in New Jersey to regulate mold. Sponsored by Assemblyman Benson and Senator Madden, the bill would require the Department of Community Affairs to establish procedures for the inspection and abatement of mold in homes and schools, as well as create certification programs for mold inspectors and other mold-abatement positions. The Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee passed the bill on October 22.
For more information about the policy priorities an legislation, contact HCDNNJ Policy Director Arnold Cohen.