DCA Announces 2008 Accomplishments

Foreclosure, Heating and Housing Assistance Provided to Thousands

TRENTON – Department of Community Affairs Commissioner (DCA) Joseph Doria today announced the Department’s top accomplishments for 2008.  These include expansion of LIHEAP, continuation of Lead Hazard Control Act Program, completion of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Plan, an increase in State Rental Assistance Program vouchers, completion of COAH’s third round regulations, and expansion of the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program.

“Governor Corzine expanded several key programs at DCA this year, allowing us to assist and aid more New Jersey residents,” said Commissioner Doria.  “2008 was an extremely productive year and we look forward to continuing our success in the coming new year.”

For example, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), designed to help low-income families and individuals meet home heating and medically necessary cooling costs, was expanded. This year, DCA will receive $185,773,240 in funds, compared to approximately $117,300,000 received last year.  Recently, Governor Corzine raised the program’s income eligibility from 175% of the federal poverty level, to 225%.  This increase will allow approximately 50,000 more households to be eligible for LIHEAP (projected households is 245,000, compared to 196,000 last year).  The Governor also enhanced the electric benefit 10% over last year’s benefit, enhanced the gas benefit 17% over last year’s benefit and enhanced the oil household benefit to average approximately four times last year’s benefit.

This year the Lead Hazard Control Act Program reached over 300 units in the abatement of lead hazards.  The program continued to educate and outreach to the at risk population with a $1 million grant to preserve the “ Wipe Out Lead” dust wipe kit program through DCA’s network of non-profit agencies and the statewide coalitions.  In October, DCA announced a $1.5 million grant program to support local health officials and the Office of Consumer Affairs with the purchase of advanced XRF lead detection equipment and plans to continue that level of funding over the next several years until all health offices are properly equipped to identify lead hazards.

Additionally, through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), a component of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, DCA will receive $51.4 million after HUD approval of an Action Plan.   The program works to stabilize neighborhoods experiencing the negative effects of the subprime mortgage crisis and the general economic downturn.  These funds can be used for property acquisition, demolition, rehabilitation and for the creation and operation of land banks, in any combination, to spur neighborhood recovery.  The Governor has made this funding part of his economic recovery program.

The State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), which allows for low-income individuals or households to choose the neighborhoods in which they live, also received increased funding to $52 million. Currently, the program is assisting approximately 3,500 families throughout the state; which represents a 15% increase over the past year.  Tenant based program funding is set-aside to assist the elderly, disabled, and homeless families.

In June, COAH adopted a new set of third round rules that will create thousands of more affordable housing opportunities in the state.  While the previous rules established the state’s affordable housing need at only 52,000 units, the new rules establish a need of 115,000 units of affordable housing through 2018, a 63,000 unit increase. A new growth share ratio of 1 affordable unit among 5 units and 1 affordable unit for every 16 jobs has been established, as opposed to the previous ratios of 1 among 9 units and 1 for every 25 jobs.  These rules drastically increase the number of affordable housing units that must be created in New Jersey, thus increasing the opportunity for New Jersey residents and families to secure the housing they need.

In May 2007 the legislature approved increasing the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits from 50% to 100%, providing a more substantial investment vehicle for public and private stakeholders.  As the investment dollars increased, the number and scope of projects submitted to the DCA for approval has also grown.  NRTC funds totaling $6.5 million have yielded $26 million in leveraged funds by nonprofits.  Additionally, investors have risen from one investor to sixteen with twenty project applications submitted.

For further information on DCA programs, please log on to http://www.nj.gov/dca.