(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carmelo Garcia, Gilbert L. “Whip” Wilson, Raj Mukherji and Cleopatra G. Tucker that would give New Jersey veterans affordable housing assistance preference was released Monday by the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
“Anyone who goes to war to defend the freedoms of our great country should not have to worry about whether they can afford to have a roof over their head when they return,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “Giving veterans affordable housing preference is just one more way we can honor their service to our state and country.”
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, homeless veterans in 2010 (the most current data year) accounted for 16 percent of the total homeless population in the country.
“New Jersey veterans should not be homeless, period, end of discussion,” said Wilson (D-Camden) a Vietnam Veteran, Airforce Ranger. “We need to be doing anything and everything we can do as a legislative body to help them find and maintain housing.”
The Democratic legislation (A-3177) would ensure that New Jersey veterans receive priority status for affordable public housing. Specifically, the bill would require the Division of Housing and Community Resources in the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA), in consultation with the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to provide preferential status to veterans who quality for public housing assistance.
“To fight so hard for the country you love only to come home and find that you no longer have a place in it is simply beyond the pale,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), who served as a sergeant in the US Marine Corps Reserve following the September 11 attacks. “If this legislation helps keep a roof over the head of even one vet, then it’s well worth doing.”
Under the bill, public housing is considered to be any housing project in the state financed by the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, public housing authorities, redevelopment agencies and the DCA, when it is acting as a public housing authority.
“We do not ignore the sacrifices that our fighting men and women make on the front lines for our freedoms,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “So, we should not find ourselves ignoring them when they return home. Our returning veterans deserve affordable housing and hopefully this will go a long way toward addressing that fact.”
The bill now heads to the full Assembly for consideration.