TRENTON, N.J. – In an effort to assist more Sandy-impacted families who are recovering from the storm, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) today announced applicants to the Rental Assistance (RAP) Program are no longer required to have an outstanding mortgage on their primary residence in order to qualify for rental assistance. Eligible applicants in the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) Program and the LMI Homeowners Rebuilding Program (LMI Program) who are paying rent because they are displaced by Sandy damage or construction are now eligible to receive RAP Program funds. This expansion coincides with the recent federal approval of the state’s request to extend the deadline for expending all RAP Program funds to September 2017 and to increase total program funding by $10 million.
The HMFA is reaching out to all applicants who were deemed ineligible for the program in the past because they didn’t have a mortgage to encourage them to modify their current RAP application since they may now be eligible for assistance. The modification process is simply and requires applicants to submit updated documentation and verify that all previously submitted information is still accurate.
At the same time, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and the HMFA are working together to inform eligible RREM Program and LMI Program applicants of this expansion of the RAP Program.
The RAP Program, which is administered by the HMFA, was created to help storm-impacted homeowners in the state’s major housing rebuilding programs relieve some of the financial strain of Sandy. Homeowners in the RREM Program and LMI Program who have signed a grant agreement but who have not yet completed the construction, rehabilitation or elevation of their home can receive up to $825 in rental assistance for the first month and then up to $1,300 a month for all subsequent payments. Also, eligible homeowners will receive three months of rental assistance and then up to six additional months of rental assistance (for a total of up to nine months) if an extension is necessary and provided program funds are available.
Program funds will be available until funding is exhausted, but all of the money must be expended by September 30, 2017. The state originally had to spend the funding by September 30, 2015, but requested and received approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a time extension, which will allow the HMFA to reach and help more families.
The program is funded with $19.5 million in federal Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funds appropriated under the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 and made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS). Of the $19.5 million, approximately $15.6 million is initially reserved for homeowners in the RREM Program and approximately $2.5 million is initially reserved for homeowners in the LMI Program.
This program supplements the more than $285 million in recovery funding the state already has provided under the Homeowner Resettlement Program and Sandy Homeowner & Renter Assistance Program (SHRAP) to storm-impacted individuals to assist with non-construction related storm costs, in addition to initial funding provided under FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program.
RAP Program assistance is for eligible storm-affected homeowners with signed grant agreements in the RREM Program or LMI Program, all of whom are residents of the nine counties most impacted by Superstorm Sandy as determined by the federal government. While there is no income restriction for participation, there are other eligibility criteria.
For example, applicants must not have completed construction, rehabilitation or elevation of their primary home. Additionally, all participants must have a signed lease on a rental property since the assistance is paid to the rental property owner, not to the homeowner, as required by federal regulations. Furthermore, per federal requirements, participants cannot receive concurrent rental assistance from other governmental or charitable programs or from insurance proceeds in excess of total housing rent payments.
The Rental Assistance Program is not retroactive. RAP 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.
Additional information including a program overview, frequently asked questions, and the program application form is available online at www.njhousing.gov/homeownership/owners/ssbg on the HMFA website. Applicants who do not have access to computer resources can contact 1-800-NJHOUSE for assistance.