Federal HOME Program in Jeopardy
Funding Invested in Providing Housing Opportunities in Morris County


The impact of potential federal budget cuts to the HOME Investment Partnership Program in Morris County low income households was the topic of discussion today as housing developers, advocates, and local elected officials gathered at Homeless Solutions' Transitional Housing Program.  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been targeted by Congress for cuts in its ongoing appropriations discussions.  HOME is one of several programs vulnerable under the proposed budget cuts.  In the last fiscal year, HOME faced cuts from $1.82 billion to $1.6 billion.  This year, the Senate is proposing a 38 percent cut and the House of Representatives is proposing a 25 percent cut.

"As Congress is evaluating budget items, we need to remind them that in this economic crisis, creating homes and jobs should be their top priority.  The HOME program is an integral part of putting New Jerseyans back to work and keeping residents in homes they can afford," said Arnold Cohen, policy coordinator for the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.  "We hope Congressman Frelinghuysen and his colleagues can visit places like the Jean Street Apartments, and places like it around our nation, so they can fully appreciate the return on investing in HOME."

For the past 20 years, HOME has provided formula grants to states and localities that communities use, often in partnership with local nonprofit groups.  These grants fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, and/or rehabilitate affordable homes for rent or homeownership or provide direct rental assistance to low-income people.  The program has brought in close to $40 million statewide this year to eligible jurisdictions such as the Department of Community Development, counties and some municipalities.  Since 1992, Morris County alone has received approximately $13.4 million HOME funds which have been invested in developing over 550 affordable homes throughout the county.

"These units have become home to seniors, first time homebuyers, people transitioning out of homelessness, survivors of domestic violence and people with physical and mental special needs," said Sabine VonAulock, director of the Morris County Community Development Division.  "Since 2000, HOME funds have leveraged $45 million in additional investment in affordable homes. This program has brought jobs and homes for working families into the county. We have enjoyed 100% success for each dollar thus far and plan to maximize every future dollar."

HOME has been extremely significant for Morris County where a household would need to make $23.71 an hour to be able to afford the fair market rent for a two bedroom rental which is $1,233; the mean renter hourly wage is $18.95.  Rising housing costs including increases for utilities and groceries increase the need for a wide range of affordable home options in Morris County.  Housing developers like Homeless Solutions is using HOME to meet that need.

"Now, more than ever, the HOME program is a strategic and valuable investment in our communities," said Elizabeth Hall, president/CEO of Homeless Solutions, Inc.  "As more households struggle with housing affordability, HOME funds can increase the supply of safe, decent housing for working families.  As we know firsthand at HSI, the lack of affordable housing is a major cause of homelessness.  Addressing homelessness has a much greater cost to taxpayers and society than an up-front investment in long-term permanent housing."

One project from Homeless Solutions made possible with HOME funds is the Jean Street Apartments in Morris Township.  Jean Street Apartments was the first permanent supportive housing development for families in New Jersey, and also the first multifamily affordable development to utilize solar panels.  

Today's event comes on the heels of a Congressional committee hearing examining the HOME Investment Partnership Program.  For more information on HOME, visit the Housing and Community Development Network's website at www.hcdnnj.org. Watch video from the event at http://youtu.be/wzqs_Aw8mc0.