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Gusciora, Eustace, Jasey, Quijano & Wimberly: Encourage Police, Firefighters, Teachers, Sanitation & Corrections Workers to Buy Homes in Towns Where They Work

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora, Tim Eustace, Mila Jasey, Annette Quijano and Benjie Wimberly to provide financial incentives to enable qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers, corrections and sanitation workers to live where they work was advanced by the full Assembly on Thursday.

“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 also the state as a whole.”

The “Police Officer, Firefighter, Public School Teacher, Corrections Officer, and Sanitation Worker Home-buyer Assistance Act” (A-213) would provide down-payment assistance to encourage qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers, corrections officers and sanitation workers to purchase residential property in specially designated neighborhoods of the School Development Authority districts in which they are employed.

“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 professionals 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.”

“Men and women dedicated to the growth and wellness of their neighborhoods are the foundation of a strong community,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By facilitating the homeownership process for some of the most committed civil servants, this bill will benefit not only those who wish to buy a house but also the future neighbors they serve.”

The bill includes a $5 million General Fund appropriation for the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) to administer the program.

The bill directs the NJHMFA to administer the down-payment assistance program. Down-payment assistance would be provided in the form of zero percent interest rate second mortgage loans of $10,000 to qualified police officers, firefighters, public school teachers, corrections officers and sanitation workers.

The loans may be used for down payments and closing costs on single or two-family homes. The loans are to be forgiven at a rate of 20 percent per year for five years. Program assistance is conditioned on maintenance of the home as a primary residence for at least five years. Violation of the primary residence requirement prior to completion of the five-year timeframe would result in the unforgiven balance becoming due and payable, except in situations of death or divorce.

For a municipality to participate in the program, it must be coextensive with an SDA school district and its governing body must adopt an ordinance to participate. Subject to further requirements developed by the NJHMFA, the municipality’s ordinance must identify participating neighborhoods by street boundary and may limit participation to qualified applicants with a specified number of years of service.

For all participating municipalities, qualified applicants must have at least one year of creditable service as a member of the applicable pension system. Employers are required to certify qualified employment of applicants to the NJHMFA.

The bill includes rulemaking authority for the Commissioner of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Commissioner of Education and the Executive Director of the NJHMFA.

The legislation is scheduled to take effect on the first day of the third month following enactment.

The bill, which the Assembly approved 49-28, now awaits further Senate consideration.