Department of Community Affairs 2008 Year in Review
Mission and GoalsThe Department of Community Affairs (DCA) has many responsibilities, but one common mission: to invest in the people, places and progress of New Jersey. Through its various divisions and affiliates, the DCA provides a wide range of services and programs to improve the quality of life in New Jersey. The DCA works to support local governments; protect the environment; provide housing; advocate for women, Latinos, individuals with special needs and other minorities; and keep New Jersey families safe.
Department AccomplishmentsIn addition to administering more than $1 billion in municipal aid in each of the last four years, the DCA’s local government specialists provided continuing education, technical assistance, and ethics and Open Public Records Act (OPRA) training to municipal officials, chief financial officers, and municipal clerks.
The DCA is dedicated to helping local governments improve the quality of life in every one of the state’s 566 municipalities. Recognizing the need to develop greater efficiencies throughout local government, the DCA has awarded more then $9.5 million in more than 154 grants since fiscal 2005 through the Sharing Available Resources Efficiently (SHARE) program. SHARE encourages government interlocal cooperation and service sharing by offering grants to local units to help them study, develop, and implement new shared or regional service programs.
The Division of Codes and Standards establishes and enforces building codes, in partnership with the state’s municipalities, to protect the health and safety of residents. On June 18, 2008 DCA adopted ride safety rules and regulations that addressed the safe maintenance and operation of water parks.
The Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the state, and is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs. This year, the Division’s Bureau of Fire Code Enforcement performed approximately 9,000 initial inspections. Historically, approximately 70% of the inspections require at least one re-inspection for a total of 15,300 annual inspections. The Uniform Fire Code also requires permits to be issued for certain types of functions and operations; these also require inspections. During 2008, the Division has issued approximately 1,400 permits for firework displays, fairs, carnivals and other special events. Of all the permits issued, there were no major accidents or injuries. The Division’s delivery and support of firefighter training programs is second to none, especially in the areas of firefighter recruit training. This year, more than 4,000 firefighters benefited from the services offered by the Division’s Training and Certifications Unit.
Since the inception of New Jersey’s Statewide Fire Codes in 1985, New Jersey has realized a remarkable reduction in civilian fire fatalities. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in the four years immediately preceding the adoption of the State’s codes, New Jersey fire death rate per million population was 22.9. During the latest four year comparison available from the NFPA, New Jersey’s fire death rate has dropped to 7.8 people per million population. This is a reduction of almost 66%. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States. It is ranked the 9th in fire death rates in the nation and is tied with Connecticut for the lowest of the nine Northeast States.
In 2006, Governor Corzine established a landmark housing goal for the State to produce and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing over a ten year period. The plan will create housing for all New Jerseyans, especially those with moderate, low, and very low incomes, senior citizens, and residents with special needs. The DCA and its affiliates, the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) and the Council on Affordable Housing
(COAH) are committed to reaching this goal by working with private, for-profit, nonprofit, and local government partners. The DCA is dedicated to providing New Jersey residents with a choice of housing that is affordable, well-maintained, and located in communities that are attractive, safe, economically diverse, and easily accessible to employment, transportation, and services. From 2006 to 2008, the DCA and the HMFA together committed funding to produce and preserve over 23,000 units, totaling $2.6 billion in investments.
The housing initiatives and programs already offered by the DCA and its affiliates are designed to complement each other to generate housing solutions and opportunities that provide affordable housing to everyone who needs it now and in the future. The Department is committed to implementing new initiatives and has taken steps to revamp existing programs as necessary to be more efficient in providing affordable housing across the state. In 2008, the DCA and the HMFA together committed funding to produce and preserve over 11,500 units, totaling more than $ 1 billion in investments. In 2009, the DCA and the HMFA have received nearly $100 million in state and federal funds to assist in mitigating the effects of foreclosures and pending foreclosures on our neighborhoods. The DCA and HMFA are committed to seeking additional resources to assist in resolving this issue.
The State Rental Assistance Program was established in 2005 for the purpose of providing tenant--based rental assistance (i.e., housing vouchers), as well as project-based funding to encourage developers to build affordable housing units. Functioning as a supplement to federal Section 8 rental assistance, the program allows DCA to provide significantly more rental vouchers to low-- and moderate—income families throughout New Jersey. By the end of fiscal 2009, the program is expected to assist over 3,900 families. For Fiscal 2009 funding for the State Rental Assistance Program was increased by $15 million to $52 million.
The CHOICE Program (Choices in Homeownership Created for Everyone) helps builders produce mixed-income developments and create homeownership opportunities for New Jersey families. CHOICE offers construction financing, gap subsidies, and no-down payment mortgages for new and rehabilitated low, moderate, emerging-market, and deed-restricted middle-income homeownership units. From 2006, 687 units were approved for financing. It is anticipated that 225 subsidized units will be approved during 2009.
The DCA is dedicated to eliminating childhood lead poisoning in New Jersey by 2010. In 2008, 10 grantees were awarded $1,012,897 to provide education and outreach opportunities across the state. Through a contract with Rutgers, 20 lead-safe building maintenance trainings courses were conducted for the fall semester of 2008. As a result of the training conducted more than 1,336 individuals received training in lead-safe building maintenance practices. Rutgers offered four of the twenty courses in Spanish. In 2008 the program supported the “Wipe Out Lead” dust wipe program with a grant of $1 million which allows for the distribution statewide of kits for individuals to use to determine if lead dust is present in their homes.
The Lead Hazard Control Assistance Program received 143 loan applications and 79 emergency relocation applications for the 2008 fiscal year. DCA has processed loans and relocation benefits totaling over $2.8 million. During the first five months of fiscal 2009, the program received over 103 applications. In fiscal 2009, the Department anticipates that loans and relocation benefits will reach over $6 million.
The DCA administers the federal Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). In 2008, LIHEAP provided $110 million in financial assistance to low--income households to offset the high cost of utility bills. As part of a comprehensive approach to provide energy assistance to New Jersey’s at-risk population, the DCA also administers the Universal Service Fund (USF) for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
The COAH governs municipal affordable housing obligations pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. On June 2, 2008, the Council adopted revised third round substantive and procedural rules to establish municipal affordable housing obligations for the period 1999 to 2018. The rules continue to utilize a “growth share” approach to address a new estimated statewide affordable housing need of approximately 115,000 units. New growth share ratios (one affordable unit among five housing units constructed and one affordable unit for every 16 jobs created as measured by new or expanded nonresidential construction) apply to developments built between 2004 and 2018. Over 230 municipal affordable housing plans were submitted by the end of 2008.
The New Jersey Historic Trust provides support and protection for New Jersey’s historic resources. Funding assistance is limited to units of local and county government or qualified nonprofit organizations. Technical assistance and easement advice is available to public and private owners of historic resources. The 2007 Garden State Preservation Trust Fund funding round conducted by the New Jersey Historic Trust, appropriated in September 2008, attracted 55 grant applications totaling $2.1 million in requests for historic preservation planning projects. The Historic Trust Board of Trustees recommended funding for 26 projects, totaling $1.1 million. Since 1990, the Historic Trust has awarded more than $110 million in grants to 537 capital preservation and planning projects.
The Division on Women (DOW) reviews federal and state legislation of concern to women, prepares background information and briefing papers, and provides comments and testimonies on related legislation. The DOW programs include 15 Displaced Homemaker programs, 3 Urban Women Job Training Centers and 3 Hispanic Women’s Demonstration Resource Centers. In 2008, these programs collectively provided services to 5,390 women and over 23,717 hours of workshops and training, and helping 707 women secure employment.
In fiscal 2008, the DOW continued the Deployed Military Spouses Program, which provided assistance to spouses of deployed military personnel through direct financial assistance payments and referrals to existing program services. Through September 2008, the program has granted $450,000 to the Burlington County Displaced Homemaker Center which has in turn provided financial assistance to more than 200 families of deployed military personnel.