The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) funds and licenses homes and apartments in communities across New Jersey for people with disabilities. In your leadership role, you may know of constituents who have questions regarding these community living programs; you may have some of your own.
Our goal is to be responsive to your concerns, and ensure that our community homes continue to be an asset to both the residents and their neighborhoods. Consider the following:
Good Neighbors, Community Living for People with Disabilities is coordinated by the New Jersey Department of Human Services. We are proud to have developed this information program in partnership with people with disabilities and their families, community and government leaders and with representatives of disability advocacy and human service provider agencies.
Most group homes for people with physical or mental disabilities qualify for a Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) bonus. Group homes may qualify for a "two-for-one" credit, based upon the number of bedrooms, toward a municipality’s COAH obligation.
There are concerns that people with disabilities are dangerous and pose a threat to your communities. We want to assure you that hundreds of community living programs, developed during the last two decades, have proven that people with disabilities are good citizens. If people are considered to be a danger to themselves or others, a community living program is not recommended for them.
State law N.J.S.A. 30:11-B-5, requires the Department of Human Services to ensure that homes for people with disabilities are "geographically available throughout the state without unnecessary concentration." We now provide the agencies that develop these community living programs with information on other Human Services-funded homes in the area. We strongly encourage the agencies to find ways to equally distribute the programs.
Many municipal officials express concern that there is no prior notification when a community living program is developed in the area. Prior notification to local officials of the intent to develop group homes was required in New Jersey in 1982 by Administrative Rule. The Regulation was allowed to expire in 1988, when the Federal Fair Housing Act Amendment specifically extended the law to cover persons with disabilities to prevent discrimination in housing. In a formal legal advisement, the Office of the State Attorney General determined prior notification to be inconsistent with the spirit of the law. "…A requirement that notice be given to local officials before a residential facility for the handicapped is established in the community would constitute an unlawful practice prohibited by the Act…" (90-0187–The Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act and Community Residences for the Handicapped. November 7, 1991).
Housing for people with disabilities should be treated in the same way as housing for any citizen - that’s the law. For instance, the law similarly forbids municipal officials to be notified when other minority groups move into a neighborhood.
- Some of your constituents may feel that their property values may be lowered if a community residence is established in their neighborhood. Research of the experience of other states has shown that property values remain unaffected by community placements.
As part of this program, we have made available general information and a guidebook for municipal officials and solicitors, called "Laws, Rules, Policies Affecting Community Residences for People With Disabilities." We also would be happy to meet with municipal officials to discuss our community living initiative and our efforts to build better relationships with host communities.
Finally, we have developed this program to listen to your concerns and respond to your questions. Because your feedback is so important to us, we have established -- for the first time -- a toll-free number and this website so that municipal officials and neighbors can get additional information on the DHS-sponsored homes and the Good Neighbors, Community Living for People with Disabilities program. Call 1-877-DHS-LINE (347-5463).