TRENTON, N.J. – Continuing the Christie Administration’s ongoing efforts to respond to the needs of Sandy-impacted families recovering from the storm, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) Board today approved the Rental Assistance Program (RAP) to help homeowners in the state’s major home rebuilding programs pay for temporary housing while their primary residences are undergoing repair or elevation. The program will begin accepting applications on March 16, 2015.
Eligible homeowners in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program (RREM) and the LMI Homeowners Rebuilding Program (LMI Program) who have signed a grant agreement, but who have not yet completed the construction, rehabilitation or elevation of their home will be eligible for up to $825 per month for up to three months of rental assistance, and can receive up to three months of additional rental assistance if an extension is necessary and provided program funds are still available.
“Right now, rental assistance for temporary housing is a significant need for homeowners in our major housing recovery programs,” said HMFA Executive Director Anthony L. Marchetta. “The Administration recognizes that rebuilding, repairing or elevating a home puts a significant strain on families who are already shouldering a great financial burden. There is a need to help relieve some of that financial pressure and facilitate the recovery process to get families back home.”
The HMFA estimates that the Rental Assistance Program will be able to assist approximately 1,750 Sandy-impacted homeowners, assuming maximum assistance of $4,950 per household for the full six months. The program will be administered by the HMFA. Rental Assistance Program funds will be available until funding is exhausted, but all of the money must be expended by September 30, 2015. The State has a request pending with the federal Office of Management and Budget for an extension of that deadline.
The program is funded with $9.5 million in federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds appropriated under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS). DHS will transfer these funds to the HMFA for administration. Of the $9.5 million, approximately $7.6 million is initially reserved for RREM applicants and approximately $1.2 million is reserved for LMI Program applicants.
This program supplements the more than $285 million in recovery funding the State already has provided under Resettlement and SHRAP to storm-impacted individuals to assist with non-construction related storm costs, in addition to initial funding provided under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program.
The rental assistance is for eligible storm-affected homeowners with signed grant agreements in the RREM or the LMI Program, all of whom are residents of the nine counties most impacted by Superstorm Sandy as determined by the federal government. While there is no income restriction for participation, there are other eligibility criteria, which are dictated by federal regulation.
For example, there must be an outstanding mortgage on the primary residence undergoing repair. Participants must provide proof of their current mortgage payment. Also, applicants must not have completed construction, rehabilitation or elevation of their primary home. Additionally, all participants must have a signed lease on a rental property since the assistance is paid to the rental property owner, not to the homeowner, as required by federal regulations.
The Rental Assistance Program is not retroactive. RAP funds are only available to assist with rent going forward and may not be used as a reimbursement for previously paid or incurred rent.
Information on how and where to apply will be forthcoming when the program launches on March 16, 2015.
Today’s HMFA Board actions, including approval of the Rental Assistance Program, will take effect at the expiration of the statutory period for the Governor’s review and consideration of the meeting minutes.