SENATE, No. 2017

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

217th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED APRIL 18, 2016

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  DIANE B. ALLEN

District 7 (Burlington)

Senator  JAMES BEACH

District 6 (Burlington and Camden)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Senators Cruz-Perez and Bateman

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     “New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act,” establishes pilot program to assist certain veterans with housing modification and rehabilitation; appropriates $5 million.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the modification and rehabilitation of housing for certain veterans, supplementing chapter 27D of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes, and making an appropriation.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  This act shall be known and may be cited as the “New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act.”

 

     2.  As used in this act:

     “Director” means the Director of the Division of Housing and Community Resources in the Department of Community Affairs.

     “Disabled” means a person who fulfills the definition of having a “disability” pursuant to section 3 of the “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990,” 42 U.S.C. s.12102.

     “Division” means the Division of Housing and Community Resources in the Department of Community Affairs.

     “Eligible veteran” means a disabled or low-income veteran.

     “Energy efficient features or equipment” means features or equipment within a primary residence that help to reduce the amount of electricity used to heat, cool, or ventilate the residence, including but not limited to insulation, weatherstripping, air sealing, repaired heating systems, or duct sealing.

     “Family member” means a spouse, child, parent, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin, grandparent, grandchild, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, or half sister, whether the individual is related by blood, marriage, or adoption.

     “Low-income veteran” means a veteran occupying a household with a gross household income equal to 50 percent or less of the median gross household income for households of the same size, and within the same housing region, as defined by subsection b. of section 4 of P.L.1985, c.222 (C.52:27D-304).

     “Primary residence” means a dwelling unit that is owned by the eligible veteran or by a family member of the eligible veteran, and occupied by the eligible veteran as his or her principle residence.

     “Qualified organization” means a nonprofit veterans' organization that qualifies as a section 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code.

     “Veteran” means any resident of the State who has been honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active service in any branch of the armed forces of the United States, or any honorably discharged member of the American Merchant Marine who served during World War II and is declared by the United States Department of Defense to be eligible for federal veterans' benefits.

     3.  The director shall establish a pilot program to award grants to qualified organizations to rehabilitate and modify the primary residences of eligible veterans, and shall manage the pilot program in consultation with the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to most effectively advance the needs of eligible veterans.  The director shall administer the pilot program for five years following the operative date of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  Grant awards totaling $1 million shall be awarded during each year the pilot program is in operation. 

     a.  In addition to any additional information required by the director, a qualified organization seeking a grant under the pilot program shall submit an application to the division that shall include the following information:

     (1) the approximate number of veterans the qualified organization has the capacity to serve through grant funding; and

     (2)  a description of the type of work to be completed, such as interior home modifications, energy efficiency improvements, and other similar categories of work.

     b.  In order to receive a grant award under the pilot program, a qualified organization shall:

     (1) demonstrate expertise in providing housing rehabilitation and modification services for the purpose of making homes accessible, functional, and safe;

     (2) have experience in successfully carrying out accountability and reporting requirements involved in the proper administration of grant funds; and

     (3) commit to paying workers employed through the pilot program no less than the prevailing wage rate for the worker's craft or trade, as determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development pursuant to P.L.1963, c.150 (C.34:11-56.25 et seq.).

     c.  In awarding grants under the pilot program, the director shall give preference to qualified organizations that employ workers from an apprenticeable trade participating in the Helmets to Hardhats Program, as certified by the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, such that not less than five percent of projected labor hours shall be completed by such participating organizations.

     d.  Low income veterans who are also disabled shall receive preference over other eligible veterans in selection for assistance under the pilot program.

     e.  Grant awards under the pilot program shall be used to modify and rehabilitate the primary residences of eligible veterans, and for other purposes necessary to advance this goal, as permitted by the director.  Permitted uses of grant funding shall include, but shall not be limited to:

     (1) installing wheelchair ramps, widening exterior and interior doors, reconfigurating and re-equipping bathrooms to enhance accessibility, removing doorway thresholds, and installing appropriate floor coverings to accommodate the functional limitations that result from having a disability;

     (2) rehabilitating homes that are in a state of interior or exterior disrepair; and

     (3) installing energy efficient features or equipment if the eligible veteran’s monthly residential utility costs are greater than five percent of monthly household income, and an energy audit of the residence indicates that the installation of energy efficient features or equipment would reduce utility costs by 10 percent or more.

     f. No qualified organization shall be awarded more than $400,000 through the pilot program in any one fiscal year.  A qualified organization receiving a grant shall contribute a matching contribution in an amount not less than 50 percent of the grant award.  This matching requirement may be met through cash contributions, or in-kind contributions, as permitted by the director.  Eligible veterans benefitting from the pilot program shall not pay an application fee or any other cost for the work completed on their residence, unless a modest fee can be charged, as permitted by the director, without forcing the veteran’s total monthly housing costs to exceed 30 percent of total household income. 

     g. (1) The director shall provide an annual report to the Governor, and the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), presenting the following information with respect to the associated year of the pilot program:

     (a)  the number of eligible veterans provided assistance under the pilot program;

     (b)  the socioeconomic characteristics of the benefited veterans;

     (c) the total number, types, and locations of qualified organizations offered grant funding under the pilot program;

     (d) the amount of matching funds, and form of in-kind contributions raised with each grant;

     (e)  a description of the housing rehabilitation and modification services provided, costs saved, and actions taken under the pilot program;

     (f) a description of the outreach initiatives implemented to educate the general public and qualified organizations about the pilot program, and to identify eligible veterans and their families; and

     (g) a description of compensation offered to workers employed through the pilot program, and a certification that workers have not been paid less than the prevailing wage rate for the worker's craft or trade, as determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development pursuant to P.L.1963, c.150 (C.34:11-56.25 et seq.).

     (h) any other information that the director considers relevant in assessing the pilot program.

     (2) Not later than six months following completion of the pilot program, the director shall provide another report to the Governor, and the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), presenting information necessary to assess the success of the pilot program as a whole.

 

     4.  The Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs shall promulgate rules and regulations, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to effectuate the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), on or before the first day of the fifth month next following enactment. 

 

     5.  There is appropriated from the General Fund the sum of $5 million to the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs for the purposes of effectuating the provisions of this act. 

 

     6.  This act shall take effect immediately, but sections 1 through 3 shall remain inoperative until the first day of the fifth month next following enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill creates the “New Jersey Housing Assistance for Veterans Act” as a five-year pilot program to assist disabled and low income veterans with housing modification and rehabilitation needs, and appropriates $5 million from the general fund. 

     This bill requires the Director of the Division of Housing and Community Resources (“director”) in the Department of Community Affairs to manage the pilot program, in coordination with the Adjutant General of the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs, to award grants to nonprofit organizations for the modification and rehabilitation of certain veterans’ housing.  To be eligible for the program, a veteran would have to either be disabled, or have a household income of no greater than 50 percent of the median regional household income.  Veterans who are both low income and disabled would receive preference over other eligible veterans in selection for assistance.  Work would only be permitted on the veteran’s primary residence. 

     The bill appropriates $5 million from the general fund, of which the director would distribute $1 million during each of five years to nonprofit organizations towards the modification and rehabilitation of veterans’ housing.  No nonprofit would receive more than $400,000 through the pilot program in any one fiscal year.  Nonprofits receiving a grant would have to contribute a 50 percent match through either cash or in-kind contributions.  Veterans benefiting from the pilot program would not be required to contribute any payment for the work, unless a modest fee can be charged, as permitted by the director, without forcing the veteran’s total monthly housing costs to exceed 30 percent of total household income.

     A nonprofit organization seeking a grant would be required to submit an application to the director that would include an estimate of the number of veterans that the organization has the capacity to serve, and a description of the type of work that would be completed.  Grants would only be awarded to organizations that can demonstrate certain expertise in home modification and rehabilitation, and experience in successfully carrying out accountability and reporting requirements involved in the proper administration of grant funds, and that commit to paying workers the prevailing wage rate pursuant to N.J.S.A.34:11-56.25 et seq.  In awarding grants, preference would be given to nonprofits that employ workers from an apprenticeable trade participating in the Helmets to Hardhats Program as certified by the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, such that not less than five percent of projected labor hours would be completed by such nonprofits.

     The director would be required to promulgate rules and regulations on or before the first day of the fifth month next following this bill’s enactment.  As the program is in progress, the director would submit an annual report to the Governor and the Legislature detailing the number of eligible veterans provided assistance, their socioeconomic characteristics, what nonprofit organizations have received grants, what matching contributions they have provided, the types of projects completed, the outreach initiatives undertaken to identify eligible veterans and qualified nonprofits, and any other information the director considers relevant in assessing the pilot program.