(East Orange, NJ) – Today, Governor Phil Murphy signed bill A-2212/S-232 into law, an environmental justice bill that would make New Jersey a leader in environmental responsibility. During the bill signing ceremony, Governor Phil Murphy, elected officials, and advocates present also used their platform to mention the importance of another significant bill that would make New Jersey a leader amongst states in the country:”The People’s Bill”.
The Governor spoke of his anticipation in signing “The People’s Bill” while he signed the Environmental Justice bill into law. This was Governor Murphy’s second major public challenge to the legislature to send “The People’s Bill” to his desk. The first was during his revised fiscal year 2021 budget address on August 25th.
Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Organizing and Advocacy at Ironbound Community Corporation, spoke of the importance of the People’s Bill as a part of her environmental bill signing speech. She related housing to health, challenging legislators to hear the cries and desires of their constituents about the environment, housing, and other major issues. Senator Troy Singleton, prime sponsor of both the EJ Bill and The People’s Bill, humbly spoke of his reason for being in public office, which was to create meaningful pieces of legislation. He declared, “Assemblywoman Timberlake is fighting like the devil” to get housing justice and The People’s Bill passed.
The People’s Bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake (D-34) and Senator Troy Singleton (D-7), has gained major notaraity. It has the support of over 150 organizations, including the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, Fair Share Housing Center, New Jersey Citizen Action, and Ironbound Community Corporation, to name a few.
If this bill makes it to the Governor’s desk as written and is signed into law, it will create an affordable repayment plan for residential tenants who have fallen behind on rent payments during the pandemic. Nearly 6 months into the pandemic, and families across the state are still struggling to pay their rent. The bill takes into account factors like an unexpected death of a family member, loss of employment, or increased childcare expenses as viable reasons for an applicant to be deemed eligible for a rental repayment plan.
The bill also enables homeowners to enter into a fair mortgage forbearance agreement with their lenders, placing past due payments at the end of a loan’s term instead of requiring a burdensome lump sum payment after the forbearance period ends. Similarly, landlords will also be granted the same opportunity for a fair mortgage forbearance, which increases an owner’s odds of successfully recouping lost rent revenue from a tenant over time.
Without this bill, hundreds of thousands of families across the garden state will receive eviction and foreclosure notices when the Governor’s moratorium ends. It has been reported that more than 15,000 evictions have already been pre-filed with landlord tenant courts throughout the state. After the devastation of the financial crisis in 2008, New Jersey’s housing market plummeted, making the state home to some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. As many families and businesses were just beginning to recover, a grim image of the past may be on the horizon.
With the People’s Bill still awaiting a vote from the full Senate, families throughout New Jersey are growing fearful of what is to come. If signed into law, the People’s Bill will give families throughout New Jersey a second chance while saving the state millions of dollars in funding needed to combat homelessness, therefore creating a path to restore the state’s economy while generating a dose of normalcy during a time of uncertainty.