Applications for the Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program reopened Monday for landlords of small properties whose tenants have missed out on rent payments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The program, run by the state’s Housing Mortgage and Finance Agency, is opening for its second round of applications as housing advocates across the state warn of an “tsunami of evictions” if more relief doesn’t come for landlords and renters soon.
To apply, New Jersey landlords must be registered with the state’s Department of Community Affairs' Bureau of Housing Inspection, own a property with three to 30 rental units, have at least one rental unit “impacted by COVID-19." The property can’t be a vacation or seasonal rental, and must also have low- to moderate-income rent levels.
“Whether they are tenants or landlords, many of New Jersey’s families are hurting in the ongoing economic crisis caused by the pandemic. No one should be struggling to keep a roof over their head during this crisis,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who oversees the DCA. “The Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program is critical to ensuring the recovery of these families as we rebuild New Jersey’s economy together.”
Applications can be found at the DCA’s website and remain open through Oct. 13 at 4 p.m. Landlords who are awarded the grant must forgive back rent.
Since the coronavirus pandemic threw the state’s economy into a tailspin in mid-March, officials have been trying to solve New Jersey’s impending housing crisis while balancing a new nine-month budget, major borrowing and filling other revenue holes. Across the country, experts warn that without help from federal, state and local governments, hundreds of thousands will be left homeless.
Gov. Phil Murphy enacted an “eviction moratorium” early on, which bans lockouts over nonpayment of rent until 60 days after the state of emergency expires, and allowed struggling tenants to use their security deposit to pay rent.
Still, more than 30,000 evictions have been filed in the courts since March, which NJHMFA Executive Director Charles Richman called “alarming."
The reopening of the program comes on the heels of a $2.35 million grant to provide legal help to vulnerable tenants. The state also opened a $100 million rental relief fund, which went to some 8,000 renters.
“Our goal with the SLEG Program is to mitigate hardship for as many landlords and tenants as possible in the current economic crisis," Richman said. "To this end, we have made some small but significant adjustments to the program to increase both eligibility and accessibility. Not only will we reach more renters in need, but we have also removed some of the barriers for landlords to apply.”
Studies estimate it would take $3 billion to help all of the Garden State’s struggling renters. And while Murphy said the state can’t afford to forgive rent, he voiced his support for the “People’s Bill,” A4226, which would require repayment plans for tenants and homeowners and ban additional charges like late fees.
The bill passed the full Assembly, but has since stalled in the Senate. Protesters took to the streets last week calling on legislators to advance the bill to no avail.