A new report released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), finds a national shortage of nearly seven million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income (ELI) renter households, those with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of their area median income. Over 70 percent of New Jersey’s poorest renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on housing, with little left over for other basic necessities.
“The shortage of affordable homes is making a difficult situation worse for so many families in the Garden State,” said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Network. “We’re facing a tsunami of evictions and foreclosures which threatens the public health and economic recovery we are all working towards. This report makes it even more imperative that all of the funding in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund stays there. The budget proposal to divert $42 million from the AHTF and alter the Fair Housing Act must be corrected so that those funds can be used to create the affordable homes NJ desperately needs.”
The NJ Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) was created to provide a means for complying with the Fair Housing Act, and it is legally intended to produce and/or rehabilitate homes that lower-income residents can afford.
The proposed 2022 state budget raids $42 million from the AHTF, with $20 million proposed for down payment assistance for homeowners who earn up to 140 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). The proposal also takes at least $10 million for mixed income developments for residents earning 80% to 120% of AMI, which is also higher than the law allows.
According to The Gap, in NJ, only 32 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.The crisis created by COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever that having a stable, affordable home is imperative for public health and individual well-being.
When it became vital to maintain social distancing, many families—who are disproportionately people of color–struggled to keep their homes. The Gap found that 21 percent of all Black households in New Jersey are extremely low-income renters, 19 percent are Latino, 6 percent Asian, and 5 percent are white households.
“NJ should invest the AHTF as intended, to create affordable homes, in order to address the deeply tied knot of the racial wealth gap, health disparities and housing injustice in our communities,” said Berger. “Too many families are struggling to put food on the table and wondering where they’re going to go when the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures expires. We need every penny in the Trust Fund so these families have an opportunity to live in a safe and decent home they can afford. Our post-pandemic health and economic recovery depends on it.”