As of 2016, almost 160,000 low-income families and individuals in New Jersey had to use some form of federal housing assistance. Many of these NJ families met federal poverty guidelines which designated them as extremely low income. A large percentage of the individuals or families who are assisted in New Jersey, and who participate in the housing assistance programs, are the elderly, adults with children and the disabled. A majority of those assisted in New Jersey utilize the housing choice voucher program, with the second largest portion of the population selecting project-based and public housing units. More than half of the participants in the New Jersey housing assistance programs are working but are not able to make ends meet. Some programs are designed to help families with children, while others are designed to help bolster the low-income housing options in rural and small towns. The following offers information on the NJ housing assistance programs, what residents can apply for and what the eligibility requirements are for each program.
New Jersey Housing Choice Voucher Program
Often referred to as Section 8 housing, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest housing assistance program in the state. It is federally funded, but administered in local areas through public housing authorities (PHA). New Jersey PHA offices receive the federal funds directly from the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This is the same department that works with New Jersey to determine guidelines for qualifying participants for the program as well as setting limits for adequate housing standards.
Participants who are qualified are issued housing choice vouchers, which they can take into the private sector. Once a participant finds a landlord who is willing to accept the vouchers, the PHA works directly with the landlord. The property is inspected to make sure that it meets federal guidelines for safe and health. Renters will still be expected to pay a small portion of their own rent each month as most vouchers do not cover the entire rental amount.
As this is one of the largest programs in New Jersey, in some parts of the state there are lengthy waiting lists. The wait time can vary from one county to the next. Unfortunately, the state of New Jersey housing programs indicates that many New Jersey renters who qualify for help are not able to receive assistance and must be placed on a waiting list, as currently the demand exceeds the supply of available housing in most areas.
New Jersey HOME and Farm Home Programs
Local housing agencies receive funds from the HOME program. This enables them to locate, identify and directly assist those who are at risk for being homeless in their area. This assistance can take the form of building new apartment complexes in the area, or it could go toward developing first-time homebuyer programs for low-income families. Many times the funding is used to renovate homes that can be used for low-income housing.
The Farm Home program is much like the HOME program, but focuses its attention on those who need housing assistance in rural areas of the state. Many of the smaller towns and cities in NJ have a lack of adequate apartment units that are available for low-income housing. In order to qualify for these programs, the applicant must contact the local PHA to complete the necessary forms.
New Jersey Homeless Prevention Program
This program offers New Jersey residents who are at danger of becoming homeless, or who are already homeless, a way to remain in their current living space. Funds are issued to landlords on behalf of qualified program participants to prevent eviction. This program is meant to only offer temporary assistance.
Adolescent Housing Hub (AHH) in New Jersey
Homeless teens have programs designed to help them in the state of New Jersey. The Adolescent Housing Hub is an organization that manages several teen housing programs in the state. Teens needing shelter can contact the PerformCare centers who will help place qualified teens into family style living situations. Several of the programs are for teens who are pregnant or who have just had a baby and require support in raising the child. Most of the programs require that the teen reenter the public education system. Case workers are assigned to each teen to make sure that he or she is receiving all of the benefits to which the teen is entitled within the state.
State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) in New Jersey
New Jersey residents who have lived in the state for at least six months, and who find themselves between homes, can petition for participation in this program. These shelters are called “set-asides” in New Jersey and are earmarked for those demographics that are considered the most vulnerable. This includes the disabled, elderly and families with children who are currently homeless. The shelter offered is designed to only be temporary while case workers attempt to locate a more permanent housing situation. Many eligible participants who are waiting to receive housing choice vouchers, and who have nowhere else to stay, are able to live in these set-asides until it is time to move into the housing choice voucher home.