2020-2021 State Legislative Policy Priorities

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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:

  • Preventing Eviction by Recognizing a Landlord’s Implied Warrant of Habitability, S538 (Codey/Rice)– 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)– 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.

  • Eliminating the Credit Score Standard, A791 (Verelli/Reynolds-Jackson)—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.

  • Establish a Statewide Limitation on Rent Increases, A1923 (Wimberly/Reynolds-Jackson)–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)–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.

Fostering Healthy Homes:

  • Requiring Lead Paint Inspections, S1147 (Ruiz), A1372 (Holley, Wimberly, Benson, Mukherji)—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 and the Network will devote considerable efforts to getting this bill passed into law.

  • Requires municipalities to conduct lead paint inspections in one- and two-family rental homes, A1233 (Schaer, Holley, Wimberly, Mukherji)– 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.

  • Requires various measures to address effects of low levels of lead exposure, A216 (Tucker/Jasey)–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.

Producing More Affordable Homes for Lower-Income Families:

  • Expand Financing Opportunities for Low- and Moderate-Income Housing, A1050 (Jasey/Calabrese)–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.

  • The "New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act,” A1049 (Jasey/Quijano/Wimberly)–This bill creates the NJ Foreclosure Transformation Program as a temporary program within the HMFA for the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable homes.

  • Increase relocation assistance based on the increase of the CPI, A1048 (Jasey/Mukherji). 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.

  • Require 20 Percent Affordable Set-Aside, A1835 (Timberlake/Gill)–This bill would require all new residential development 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.

Reduce the Impact of Foreclosures and Address Problem Properties:

  • Building Community Wealth, A1834, (Gill/Timberlake)–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.

  • Revises residential mortgage foreclosure process, A1052 (Jasey/Wimberly/Schaer)– 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.

  • Creates Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, (Singleton)–This bill would create a pilot program that allows homeowners with negative home equity, and who are in default of a mortgage owned by the agency, to lower the remaining principal owed on the mortgage to an amount more reflective of current market realities. This will occur in exchange for conveying an equity share in the property to the agency.

  • Moratorium on certain foreclosures and places additional requirements for foreclosure, A223 (Tucker/Timberlake)–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.

  • Let Seniors Ask for Rent Increase Limits, A1914 (Wimberly/Reynolds-Jackson)—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) – 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)— 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, S805 (Cunningham)—Currently, 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 March 2, 2020