TRENTON – Superstorm Sandy victims who need temporary housing while their homes are being repaired or elevated will now be able to get up to $1,300 a month for rental assistance.
That’s $475 more than the original monthly limit in the Rental Assistance Program, which was launched in March by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA). Eligible homeowners can now get up to nine months of rental assistance. There was initially a six-month limit.
Lisa Ryan, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, said HMFA has found that program applicants are facing higher rental costs than originally projected, and that some will be out of their homes for longer periods of time. As a result, the agency decided to raise the amount homeowners can seek each month, and also give three additional months’ help.
“As a result, the Agency decided to make more assistance available for a longer period of time in order to better address the situation” families are actually experiencing, she said.
Additional information, including a program overview, frequently asked questions, and the program application form is available online. Applicants who do not have access to a computer can contact 1-800-NJHOUSE for assistance.
When the program was announced in February, it was welcomed by Sandy recovery advocates.
The majority of requests received by Ocean County’s Long-Term Recovery Group are from homeowners seeking assistance with rental payments while they repair their homes. It’s now more than 30 months after Sandy struck, and many homeowners no longer have the financial resources to pay for a rental while still making mortgage payments on their damaged homes.
Are you eligible
for the Rental Assistance Program?
Eligibility is set forth as follows:
•You must be a homeowner who is participating in the state’s Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program or the Low- and Moderate-Income (LMI) Homeowners Rebuilding Program.
•You must have a signed grant agreement but have not yet completed construction, rehabilitation or elevation of your home.
•The home undergoing repair must be a primary residence (not a second, or vacation home), and must have an outstanding mortgage.
•You must not yet have completed reconstruction or elevation of their home.
•You must have a signed lease on a rental property, since all assistance is paid to the owner of the rental property, not to the homeowner.
•Residents in the Rental Assistance Program are not allowed to receive rental assistance from other government or charity progams at the same time that they are getting payments from the RAP program.
•The Rental Assistance Program is not retroactive. Funds are only available to assist with rent going forward and may not be used as a reimbursement for previously paid or incurred rent. Funds are being distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to approved applicants.
That includes Monmouth and Ocean, as well as Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex and Union counties.
Of the $9.5 million in rental assistance money, $7.6 million is reserved for residents in the RREM program, while $1.2 million will go to those in the low- and moderate-income homeowners program.
Jean Mikle, @jeanmikle