(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Pamela Lampitt, Tim Eustace Joseph Lagana, Gordon Johnson and Joann Downey sponsored to help homeless veterans in New Jersey secure housing received final legislative approval Friday and now heads to the governor.
“With thousands of veterans among New Jersey’s homeless population, this legislation will set aside vouchers and catalyze the construction of new affordable housing units to ensure that those who served our country in uniform are not abandoned when they need our support,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who served in military intelligence. “There is no excuse for us not to deploy every tool at our disposal to combat veteran homelessness, and this bill is part of a multi-faceted effort to do just that.”
The bill (A-2098) would require the Commissioner of Community Affairs to establish and operate a project-based voucher pilot program under the federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program for veterans and their families who are confronting homelessness or are residing in unsafe housing.
The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program assists in making safe and quality housing in the private rental market affordable to low, and very low-income households by reducing housing costs through direct rent subsidy payments to landlords. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The bill would require the Commissioner of Community Affairs to annually allocate to the pilot program at least 1.5 percent of the unencumbered amount the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides to the State Department of Community Affairs’ Housing Choice Voucher Program for five years.
“The fortitude of our military relies, in part, upon how we demonstrate reverence for those who serve,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Reserving housing vouchers for veterans is one way to show our support for them and their families.”
“Thousands of men and women served in this nation’s military then came home to no home,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation takes resources already available to the state and employs them in a manner that will help get veterans into housing and off the street.”
“The very least New Jersey can do for veterans is ensure that they have adequate housing,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Those who were willing to give their lives for this nation should never feel helpless when it comes to one of their most basic needs.”
“The transition back to civilian life is difficult for many veterans, and being without a home makes it even harder,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who served in the U.S. Army Reserve. “Getting veterans off the street and back on their feet must be a priority in New Jersey.”
“Veterans should never feel they have nowhere to turn when it comes to meeting one of their most fundamental needs,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This bill will move New Jersey closer to putting a roof over the head of every man and woman who has served this nation.”
New Jersey has among its homeless population an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 veterans, according to the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs.
The bill was approved 33-0 today by the Senate, and 74-0-2 by the Assembly on June 30, 2016.