Assembly Panel Advances Gusciora Bill to Encourage Police, Firefighters, Teachers and Sanitation Workers to Buy Homes in Towns Where They Work

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon) to provide financial assistance for qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers and sanitation workers to purchase homes in communities where they work was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“There is an advantage to having police officers, firefighters, teachers and sanitation workers living in the communities they serve. We have very dedicated public employees, but the commitment is even greater when your work directly impacts the neighborhood where you live and raise your family,” said Gusciora. “Providing a financial incentive will encourage more of our public servants to live in the communities where they work, which benefits not just those communities, but the state as a whole.”

The bill (A-1452) would establish the “Police Officer, Firefighter, Public School Teacher and Sanitation Worker Home-buyer Assistance Act.” The purpose of the program is to offer down-payment assistance to encourage qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers and sanitation workers to purchase residential property in specially designated neighborhoods of eligible municipalities where they work.

Current state law does not require teachers, police and firefighters to live in the communities they serve. Municipalities that are coextensive with an “Abbott” school district would be eligible to participate. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency would administer the program.

Down-payment assistance would be in the form of zero percent interest rate second mortgage loans of $10,000. Under the program, the applicant would be required to make a home purchased with program assistance his or her primary residence for at least five years. Down-payment loans would be forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year for five years. The unforgiven balance would become due and payable if an employee sells the property or ceases to occupy it as a primary residence.

“For many first-time buyers, purchasing a home can be a costly investment. This bill provides an opportunity for police officers, firefighter, teachers and sanitation workers who want to purchase a home, but don’t have enough for a down payment, to buy their own piece of the American dream,” said Gusciora.

Eligible municipalities can participate in the program by adopting an ordinance. The ordinance would designate municipal neighborhoods where the program would be applicable, and identify a municipal official to assist applicants with the application process. The ordinance could limit eligibility to qualified applicants who have been employed by the eligible municipality or by a school district in the eligible municipality for more than a specified number of years. Otherwise, an employee would be required to have at least one year of creditable service as a member of the applicable pension system.

The bill would appropriate $5 million from the General Fund to the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency for program purposes.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee.