Gusciora, Eustace, Jasey & Quijano Bill to Encourage Police, Firefighters, Teachers and Sanitation Workers to Buy Homes in Towns Where They Work Released by Assembly Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Tim Eustace, Mila Jasey and Annette Quijano to provide financial incentives to qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers and sanitation workers to live where they work was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

“There is an advantage to having these 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 (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This financial incentive can help encourage more of our public servants to live in the communities where they work, which provides a benefit not just to those communities, but the state as a whole.”

The bill (A-213) would establish the “Police Officer, Firefighter, Public School Teacher, and Sanitation Worker Home-buyer Assistance Act.” The program would offer down-payment assistance to encourage qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers and sanitation workers to purchase homes in specifically designated neighborhoods in the municipalities where they work. Municipalities that are coextensive with an Abbott district would be eligible to participate.

“Not everyone wants to commute and deal with traffic delays after a long day at work, especially in these professions, which can be very taxing,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This is an excellent opportunity for people in these fields who want to buy a home but don’t want to commute long distances to capitalize from this program and settle in the municipalities where they work.”

“Buying a house is the biggest investment that most people make in their lifetime. Not only is a substantial sum needed for the down payment, but the closing costs as well,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This bill provides a great opportunity for families who want to buy a house, but just don’t have the recourses to cover all the significant costs that come with the dream of homeownership.”

“These professions have a tremendous impact on the well-being of a community. Living where they work provides a better understanding of the population they are serving,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This is a great opportunity to help more of our civil servants realize the dream of homeownership, while strengthening the professions that are charged with protecting and educating our children.”

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

Down-payment assistance would be in the form of zero percent interest rate second mortgage loans of $10,000. As a condition of the loan, an 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.

The municipality would have to adopt an ordinance to participate in the program. The ordinance would set forth municipal neighborhoods within which the program would be applicable. Additionally, the ordinance would identify a municipal official who would assist qualified applicants in preparing applications to the agency and be responsible for forwarding that application to the agency. The ordinance could limit eligibility for participation in the program 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 Commissioner of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Commissioner of Education and the Executive Director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency would be charged with disseminating the rules and regulations necessary to accomplish the purposes the bill.

The bill was released by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee.