TRENTON – The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senators Angela McKnight and Troy Singleton that would require the expanded use of affordable housing voucher program funding for the purpose of assistance with homeownership expenses.
“Housing vouchers should not be limited to solely covering rental expenses, but should also help families who desire to be homeowners the opportunity to do so,” said Senator McKnight (D-Hudson). “The federal government already has a similar program, which has helped thousands of families attain permanent homes since 2000. It is time to establish a comparable program here in New Jersey, and in doing so expand those opportunities to more of our low and moderate income families.”
The bill, S-1430, would require the Department of Community Affairs to reserve a portion of the funding provided for the State Rental Assistance Program to establish and administer a program similar to the federal section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program. Under the federal program, participants who would otherwise apply for a voucher toward rent payments can instead apply to use the voucher toward principal and interest on mortgage debt, insurance, taxes, utilities, and other homeownership expenses.
The program established and administered by the Department of Community Affairs would additionally allow for a homeownership voucher to be used for a single down payment assistance grant, rather than solely for monthly assistance for homeownership expenses.
“Homeownership is the American Dream, yet for too many families purchasing a home is out of reach,” said Senator Singleton, the Chair of the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. “The Housing Choice Voucher Program is used by thousands of people to secure rentals throughout our state, and this proposal would expand that program to cover costs affiliated with buying a home. Ultimately, providing assistance to low-income families seeking to own a home would help them build generational wealth and equity, thereby providing greater economic security to these families in the long term.”
The Department would additionally be required to reserve a portion of the funding provided for the State Rental Assistance Program to establish and administer a program comparable to the federal section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Family Self-Sufficiency Program to help families achieve economic independence and reduce dependence on welfare assistance and rental subsidies. In addition, the Department would establish a Home Repair Emergency Assistance Fund to assist families with costs of necessary home repairs and other homeownership expenses over the course of their participation.
Finally, the bill would require local housing authorities in the state that administer funding through the federal section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program to additionally implement the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program. Currently, local housing authorities are permitted, but not required, to implement the program.
The bill was advanced in a 5-0 vote.