2020-2021 State Legislative Policy Priorities

Click here for a downloadable version of the Network's State Policy Priorities. 

New Jersey’s persistent housing affordability crisis harms our residents and stifles our economy. The Great Recession and Superstorm Sandy made it even more difficult for residents to stay in their homes, and many families have not recovered. To Build a Thriving New Jersey, we need to create homes our neighbors and families can afford, and revitalize the communities where we work and live by adopting the following state policy changes in key areas:

Renter Empowerment and Neighborhood Tools (RENT) for Equity and Health:

  • Establishing Homeowner and Renter Protections During and After Covid, S3691 (Stack), A5685 (Timberlake, Wimberly)—Governor Murphy’s executive order #106 prohibits evictions and foreclosures during and immediately after the declared Public Health Emergency. This bill would establish firm guidelines to establish housing stability for Covid-impacted residents as well as create consumer and credit protections for residents participating in any forbearance/repayment program. The bill passed both houses of the New Jersey state legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

  • FY2022 Budget – The Network testified repeatedly before the Assembly Budget Committee and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in to express objections to Gov. Murphy’s proposed transfer of a portion of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund from supporting the development of homes and programs for lower-income families to HMFA programs geared toward middle-income families. Ultimately, the Network’s advocacy resulted in preventing the AHTF diversion and the state budget was signed on June 29, 2021.

  • Rental Assistance Navigation Program, A5905 (Timberlake, Speight, Spearman), S3955 (Ruiz)—This bill will create a Rental Assistance Navigation Program at the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA). It would allow DCA to prohibit landlords from filing for evictions for nonpayment or habitual late payment while a rental assistance application is pending, and conduct outreach to ensure the identity of the landlord and tenant and the accuracy of the information submitted, among other guidance. The bill passed both houses of the New Jersey State Legislature on June 24, 2021 and is awaiting the governor’s signature. 

  • Creating Confidentiality Standards for Landlord-Tenant Court Actions, A4463 (Quijano, Wimberly, Mukherji), S3713 (Singleton/Stack) – This bill would establish confidentiality standards for court records of certain eviction actions initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically “emergency period nonpayment eviction actions.” This applies to any action initiated by a landlord, or by the tenant in response to the landlord’s action, in Superior Court, to evict a tenant from their primary residence due to the tenant’s nonpayment or habitually late payment of rent during the emergency period beginning March 9, 2020 and ending 60 days following the conclusion of the public health emergency as declared by the Governor. This bill passed the full Assembly on March 25, 2021 and the full Senate on June 30, 2021. It awaits the governor’s signature.

  • Eliminating the Credit Score Standard, A4270 (Verelli/Reynolds-Jackson), S2516 (Turner)—Personal credit history can be a frustrating and unfair standard for tenants trying to rent a home. This bill will help alleviate this problem by removing credit scores or other assessments from the rental application process. It will ensure that low-income tenants saddled with poor credit are able to have access to an affordable home. This new standard will apply to holders of state- or federal-based housing subsidies and/or someone looking to live in a home restricted to low- or moderate-income households. Passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee on 3/11/21. Awaits a hearing in the Assembly Housing Committee.

  • Preventing Eviction by Recognizing a Landlord’s Implied Warrant of Habitability, S538 (Codey/Rice; Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee)–This bill strengthens tenants’ right to a livable home by facilitating the right of tenants to raise habitability violations in eviction and other judicial proceedings, while ensuring that the judges hearing such cases can both order and obtain appropriate inspections whenever tenants raise health and safety claims.

  • Establishes confidentiality of landlord-tenant court records; addresses adverse actions on rental applications, S539 (Codey/Rice/Stack; Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee)– This bill would end “tenant blacklisting” to make it unlawful and end the often-discriminatory practice of rejecting prospective tenants solely because a prior court action had been filed by either side.

  • Establish a Statewide Limitation on Rent Increases, A1923 (Wimberly/Reynolds-Jackson; Assembly Housing Committee)–This bill would establish a statewide limitation on rent increases. Specifically, the bill would prohibit a residential landlord from increasing rent by more than 5 percent plus inflation, or 10 percent, whichever is lower, of the lowest rental rate charged for that home at any time during the 12 months prior to the date when the increase takes effect.

  • The Fair Chance in Housing Act, A1919 (Wimberly/Reynolds-Jackson/McKnight; Assembly Housing Committee)–This bill would create the “Fair Chance in Housing Act” and provides certain housing rights of persons with criminal records. This bill would restrict a housing provider from requiring a housing applicant to complete any housing application that includes any inquiries regarding the applicant’s criminal records prior to the provision of a conditional offer. Signed into law in June 2021

Fostering Healthy Homes:

  • Requiring Lead Paint Inspections, S1147 (Ruiz), A1372 (Holley, Wimberly, Benson, Mukherji; Assembly Housing Committee)—Removing lead paint-related health risks from the home should be an easy political win, and yet, a bill that will do just that is frustratingly stalled and was unable to surface during the 2018-2019 lame duck session. This bill will require lead paint inspections prior to home purchases and tenant turnover and will establish educational programs about lead paint poisoning. Signed into law on July 22, 2021.

  • Requires municipalities to conduct lead paint inspections in one- and two-family rental homes, A1233 (Schaer, Holley, Wimberly, Mukherji; Assembly Housing Committee)– This bill would require municipalities to inspect every single-family and two-family rental dwelling located within the municipality for lead-based paint hazards at least once every five years, except municipalities would inspect single-family and two12 family rental dwellings on which encapsulation has been performed to remediate lead-based paint hazards at least once every two years. Municipalities would charge a fee for the inspection at a rate proportional to the current "Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law" fee schedule. In addition, municipalities would be required to impose an additional fee of $20 per unit inspected for deposit into the Lead Hazard Control Assistance Fund. Awaiting hearings in the Assembly Housing Committee and the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee

  • Requires various measures to address effects of low levels of lead exposure, A216 (Tucker/Jasey; Assembly Women and Children Committee)–This bill enables school personnel to know if a child has a history of elevated blood lead levels and will require schools to educate staff and parents about the dangers of lead exposure. Awaiting hearing in Assembly Women and Children Committee

Producing More Affordable Homes for Lower-Income Families:

  • Providing Mortgage Payment Relief, A5684 (Timberlake, Jasey, McKnight), S3669 (Singleton) – This bill would require lenders to provide forbearance to homeowners affected by the pandemic. Homeowners would receive much-needed relief without fees, including attorney’s fees, penalties, or interest. The bill also makes sure lenders do not double down on the financial burden levied on pandemic-affected homeowners by barring negative reports submitted to debt collectors or credit agencies. The Network testified repeatedly on this bill in the Assembly Housing and Budget committees, as well as in the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee. The bill has cleared all three committees. 

  • Expand Financing Opportunities for Low- and Moderate-Income Housing, A1050 (Jasey/Calabrese; Assembly Appropriations Committee)–This bill directs HNFA to establish incentives and priorities to promote participation by minority and women owned businesses, so that a realistic opportunity exists for these firms to successfully participate in providing low and moderate-income housing options. The bill specifically encourages the development of multi-family rental housing and home ownership opportunities for low and moderate income families participating developing firms to satisfy existing bonding requirements through a valid letter of credit and/or traditional performance bonding. Passed the Assembly Housing Committee, 10/20; Passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, 11/20; Awaiting hearings in both the Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committees

  • The "New Jersey Foreclosure Prevention Act,” A5130/S3244 (Jasey/Reynolds-Jackson/Wimberly/Singleton/Pou­—This bill will grant the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Association the power to purchase eligible properties and mortgage assets from institutional lenders to produce affordable homes. More, the bill’s Foreclosure Intervention Fund presents a real opportunity to establish a regular,  revolving stream of capital for purchasing eligible properties.  Signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy, March 9, 2021

  • Increase relocation assistance based on the increase of the CPI, A1048 (Jasey/Mukherji; Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee). It’s been nearly 50 years since relocation assistance was increased! This bill provides for a 4.5-fold increase in all of the statutory assistance amounts over two years, and for the indexing of the amounts to changes in the CPI-U beginning 36 months after the effective date of the bill.

  • Required Affordable Set-Aside, A1835 (Timberlake/Gill; Assembly Housing Committee)–This bill would require certain residential developments consisting of 30 or more apartments to reserve at least 25 percent of the apartments for very low-, low-, moderate-, and middle-income housing for at least 98 years. A developer could build the affordable homes offsite, provided they are built in the same town.

Reduce the Impact of Foreclosures and Address Problem Properties:

  • Building Community Wealth, A1834, (Gill/Timberlake; Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee)–This bill expands community access to residential properties sold at sheriff sale by lowering the deposit to 3.5 percent, down from the required 20 percent. Under the bill, a successful bidder on a residential property will have up to 90 days to complete the sale, with no interest accruing on the balance of the sale for 60 days following the sale. This expanded access to property will allow community members who will live in the property they purchase to compete with other bidders. Passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, 7/20; Awaiting hearing in the Assembly Community Development and Affairs Committee

  • Revises residential mortgage foreclosure process, A1052 (Jasey/Wimberly/Schaer; Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee)– This bill requires a servicer who files a foreclosure complaint to tell the homeowner about all possible assistance to help them avoid foreclosure and provide a single point of contact to help them through the process.

  • Moratorium on certain foreclosures and places additional requirements for foreclosure, A223 (Tucker/Timberlake; Assembly Housing Committee)–Grants a six-month forbearance to pursue a mortgage settlement.

Protect People Experiencing Homelessness:

  • Highlighting Homelessness Prevention Programs, A1229 (Schaer/Mosquera)—This bill requires that the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) prepare and make available information on its website concerning all homeless prevention programs that are available to homeless persons or persons who are at imminent risk of homelessness.  The bill also requires that DCA update this information whenever necessary. Passed the Assembly, 2/20; Passed the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, 1/21

  • Let Seniors Ask for Rent Increase Limits, A1914 (Wimberly/Reynolds-Jackson; Assembly Housing Committee)—This bill will assure affordable rental housing for a significant portion of the population by allowing tenants to apply for protected senior citizen tenant status.

  • Allow Counties to Increase the Surcharge for County Homeless Trust Funds, A2165, (Mukherji/Chaparro; Assembly Housing Committee) – Permits up to seven-dollar increase in surcharge for document recordation with county in support of county homelessness housing trust funds.

  • Create a Code Red Alert to Shelter At-Risk Individuals, A676 (Vainieri Huttle/Lopez; Assembly Human Services Committee)— The bill provides for the coordination, by a county office of emergency management, of emergency services rendered by municipal governments, social service agencies, and certain non-profit organizations to the homeless during harsh hot weather conditions. The bill defines an at-risk individual as an individual living outdoors or in poorly insulated settings who is at risk for weather-related exposure and possible death.

  • Grant Emergency Assistance Eligibility to Persons with Past Drug Distribution Convictions, A3004 (Mukherji; Human Services Committee); S805 (Cunningham; Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee)—Individuals convicted of an offense involving the possession of a controlled dangerous substance are permanently ineligible for benefits. This bill revises these restrictions to provide that anyone who is convicted of an offense involving the use, possession, or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance will be eligible for general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program if the individual completes a drug treatment program or otherwise qualifies for one of the current statutory exceptions.

Updated July 27, 2021

If you have any questions, please contact Director of Policy and Advocacy Matt Hersh at [email protected]