Jersey City has been uniquely slow in distributing money under a federally funded rental assistance program, according to an article published today in HuffPost. “Jersey City offers a case study in why so much of the federal aid is still not getting to the people who need it” writes Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel.
According to the article, Jersey City denied 800 of approximately 1,100 applications for rental assistance, largely because the applicants did not live in owner-occupied buildings.
Adam Gordon, executive director at Fair Share Housing Center in New Jersey, told HuffPost that he wasn’t aware of any other program in New Jersey ― including the one run by the state itself ― that imposed that condition.
As a result, as of Sept. 9, Jersey City “had approved just 45 applications and handed out $450,000, out of the $7.8 million provided by the federal government.”
The decision to restrict funding to individuals in owner-occupied buildings came from Mayor Fulop according to a source who requested anonymity.
Mayoral Spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione told HuffPost that the city wanted to first “focus on buildings where the owner lives and relies on the rental income for sustaining their own home as opposed to an owner who has a multiple investment properties or is a larger developer in the city.”
“We knew that if we broadly open the program, a couple of the very large developers/landlords that are more organized would exhaust the funds with their several hundred unit buildings,” she told HuffPost.
“We were very clear that we opened that program for 2 weeks (owner occupied), and we were very clear that after 2 weeks we are expanding to slightly larger buildings, and then again 2 weeks later larger buildings” she also said.
Gordon, for his part, apparently acknowledged that getting rental aid to landlords of owner-occupied buildings, who are often more financially vulnerable than larger landlords, might make some sense. “That said, from the tenant’s perspective, whether or not they’re renting from a small landlord or a large landlord, they still have the financial burden and the need,” he added.
However, the article also points out that Jersey City was much slower the county and state in setting up its program, has confusing messaging on its website and is working against a federal deadline to distribute the money.
To read the full article, go here.