The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, continues its work to ensure a more efficient, equitable, and transparent recovery from the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. The Network spent the first part of 2014 engaging and mobilizing its members, allies, local residents, and elected officials to promote improvements in the policies and programs created to help New Jersey recover (see Memo, 1/20/14, 6/20/14). The Network’s collaborative efforts to enable greater input from the public resulted in three public hearings about the second allotment of federal recovery dollars, and an expanded timeframe for public comment on the state’s proposed plan for these funds.
A fair housing complaint brought by Network allies, the Fair Share Housing Center, the Latino Action Network, and the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP (see Memo, 6/6/14), resulted in significant changes to the state’s Sandy recovery program. In May 2014, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, HUD, and the complainants entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA). Under the VCA, the state will ensure access to recovery resources for lower income renters and homeowners by targeting the hardest hit areas.
The VCA set aside $40 million for lower income people and people with limited English proficiency, including owners of manufactured housing, who may not have enrolled in recovery programs when they were first announced. The VCA also established a grassroots, community outreach component to ensure that low and moderate income homeowners and tenants, especially residents with limited English proficiency, are informed about the availability of Sandy recovery programs. The Network will be providing these additional outreach services. Addressing one of the Network’s major concerns with the recovery, the settlement includes a robust housing counseling program to be conducted by HUD-certified agencies over the next several years.
The VCA also provides for a Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program for renters still impacted by Sandy. The TBRA Program provides short-term, temporary rental assistance in the form of vouchers to assist eligible rental households earning at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). Recipients must also be living in or moving to one of the nine counties determined by HUD to be most impacted by Sandy. Assistance is provided to recipients for twelve months, with an option to renew for an additional twelve months. Priority for assistance under the new program will be given to households earning at or below 30% AMI, and those who were directly displaced by Sandy and continue to need rental assistance. Recipients will pay approximately 30% of monthly gross income toward rent, and must select a unit that meets federal Housing Quality Standards.
“Recovering from the devastation after the storm has been overwhelming for our residents, especially for our neighbors who speak languages other than English or who need help navigating the recovery system,” said Staci Berger, Network President and CEO. “We are very pleased that the nonprofit community will be able to connect families with information about manufactured and individual home rebuilding, current and future rental opportunities and critical housing counseling services. We will have a multi-pronged approach that includes community presentations, tabling and event communications and door-to-door canvassing, in multiple languages, to reach New Jerseyans who still need to access recovery resources.”
For more information, contact Staci Berger, Network President and CEO at firstname.lastname@example.org