Eagerly awaited details on the $60 million dollar Affordable Housing Trust Fund allocated in last year’s budget were unveiled yesterday at a meeting in Trenton. After outlining some broad priorities ahead of his 2021 budget address next week, Gov. Murphy emphasized his commitment to housing "Ensuring that every New Jerseyan has a safe, affordable place to call home is a core principle of my Administration's vision for a stronger and fairer New Jersey." He then gave the podium to Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner, for important details on the new program.
As outlined in the press release, the allocation plan reflects several core principles, including advancing equity in addressing housing needs, encouraging leverage of other public and private resources, and allowing a flexible structure for funds to be used to get projects done. To ensure maximum impact of AHTF investments, DCA held multiple listening sessions to hear from stakeholders about how the funding can be best and most equitably spent. The sessions helped DCA assess factors to incorporate in determining how to allocate the funds, such as collaborative approaches; market impact; resilience and sustainability; synergy with other redevelopment efforts; and proximity to educational, employment, and transportation opportunities.
Based on the input received, DCA will allocate $60 million in AHTF funding to smaller rental and homeownership housing projects sized at 25 or fewer units that often have difficulty obtaining financing. These projects will fill the gaps within the existing affordable housing ecosystem, build on current assets and investments, and add value to neighborhoods, and they tend to be developed by community-based organizations that have a strong connection to the housing equity issues in their communities.
The AHTF dollars will be allocated through three funds, all focused on creating housing for households earning less than 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), with preferences for providing units with deeper affordability. Municipal Settlement Fund comprising approximately 50% of the AHTF, will help municipalities create smaller-scale projects that fit into the landscapes of their neighborhoods and assist them in fulfilling their court-sanctioned affordable housing settlements. The Neighborhood Partnerships Fund will dedicate approximately 40% of the AHTF funds to support the development of affordable housing in Qualified Urban Aid Towns, particularly those projects that leverage other existing resources to strengthen their neighborhoods. The Innovation Fund will dedicate approximately 10% of the AHTF funds for innovative projects that may not fit under the umbrella of the other two funds but that creatively advance the State's housing goals.
The Department will prioritize projects that include municipal leverage; participation in other state-funded community development initiatives; partnerships with private sector investors; sustainability/resilience; walkability; mixed-use; accessibility; and projects addressing gentrification.
Grant guidelines are available on DCA's website. DCA will host a webinar on March 2, 2020, from 9:00 - 12:00, launching the unified AHTF application, which will be available on SAGE, DCA's grant management system. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. To move projects quickly through the process, a pre-application can be submitted using the link below. DCA will offer in-person presentations and one-on-one technical assistance.
“The support for capital investment which took into consideration the needs of supportive housing developers as well as municipalities will go a long way in creating homes throughout the state for people with disabilities for whom accessibility and affordability remain a constant struggle. SHA is so grateful to the administration, the legislature, all of our members and advocates for pushing to make this happen,” said Diane Riley, SHA Executive Director. In August, SHA shared the following recommendations to DCA regarding the needs to be addressed in the new Affordable Housing Trust Fund.