Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Vulnerable Groups Linked by Need for Affordable Housing

The NJ Foundation for Aging (NJFA) recognizes that aging friendly and age sensitive issues are in reality ageless. In this spirit NJFA works with many partners including the Anti Poverty Network (APN).  This organization represents a wide array of groups and concerns. The intersection or cross tracking of concerns creates a dynamic profile impacting people of all ages. Across the board access to nutrition & health services, employment and affordable housing are essential quality of life ingredients.

Among the vulnerable populations whose lives are deeply impacted by these intersecting concerns are our state’s elders. A simple examination of income data makes this reality painfully clear. The NJ Foundation for Aging’s NJ Elder Index and Data Report indicates that 25 % of all seniors living in NJ rely on their Social Security benefit as their sole source of their annual income. The average annual cost of living for a single elder renting a one bedroom apartment reported in the index is slightly below $28,000 and the cost of living is even higher in Bergen and Passaic counties. This level is a significant challenge when we know the average Social Security for a woman in NJ is $14,848 (and this is the average meaning many women receive significantly less). More than 252,000 single elders and elder couples face the daily crisis of covering their basic expenses with inadequate income.

Public benefits can improve the quality of life for the elder receiving the average SS benefit of $14,848 (as their sole source of income) as well as those with even lower incomes. This elder would be eligible for SNAP, for congregate meal programs, for Farmers market coupons, for energy and utility assistance, for PAAD, and a low income subsidy for their Medicare premium. Even with all of these existing programs, however, they would still fall short in the ability to cover their basic costs.

Here is where the needs and the solutions collide. Affordable housing is the only benefit that helps this elder really narrow the gap between their costs and their income. As declared by the headline for a recent NJ Spotlight article, “Affordable housing remains out of reach for a majority of NJ Renters”. This is not new news, but the article cites data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual “Out of Reach” report. The NJ Foundation for Aging recognizes that affordable housing is needed for people of all ages so people do not age into poverty. Housing policy across NJ is sorely lacking and we need to offer a full portrait of those who would benefit from this important resource: children, low income families, adults, health care workers, seniors, and residents with special needs. Let’s make housing for all a priority.

 

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Affordable housing is more important than ever for low income seniors and low income families.

A recent Appellate Division’s decision provides an important opportunity for municipalities to utilize much-needed housing trust funds to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors across the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many of these funds were specifically designated for the development of senior housing in the nine counties hardest hit by the storm. This includes 131 senior units in Monmouth County, 6 special needs unit for the elderly by Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey in Livingston, Essex County; and 5 senior rental by Catholic Charities in Harrison, Hudson County.

The court’s decision comes at a critical time in this state’s history with the high demand for affordable senior housing and the rising cost of living. In just three short years, the cost of living for seniors living in a one bedroom apartment on a fixed income in New Jersey has increased 8 percent, according to data released in 2012 by the New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA).

The cost of living for a single renter over the age of 65 was $25,941 in 2009. That same renter, living in the same one-bedroom apartment, saw her cost of living quickly climb more than $2,000 to $27,960, by 2012. However, there was not a comparable rise in income or Social Security.  Seniors on fixed incomes have been plagued in recent years with rising expenses for housing, transportation and health care. In many cases this has resulted in a rise in senior hunger and even homelessness. Their highest cost is their housing expenses.

Twenty five percent of all seniors in our state rely on Social Security as their only income. So NJ seniors can least afford the trend in rising expenses. The result is a widening of the gap between basic living expenses and their income. The NJ Elder Economic Index details these costs for seniors in each of the 21 NJ counties. These details indicate how seniors are faring in the slow economy. The latest data shows that 250,000 seniors over the age of 65 in New Jersey – representing 42 percent of single and elderly couples living in the community – do not have the money to cover their basic costs. Sixty-four percent of people in this group are women.

The report, known as the NJ Elder Economic Index, indicates that the average Social Security for a woman being $14,848. But average living expenses for a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey has reached the $27,960 mark. So how can we expect to call these the golden years if elders must choose between food, heat, shelter or prescriptions? Even if a person worked and saved for retirement this rise in costs are unprecedented and these elders are one step from their own ‘fiscal cliff’. The New Jersey Foundation for Aging wants to alert and connect elders to resources in their community that might ease the financial strain they may be feeling each day. 

A woman receiving $14,848 from Social Security as her sole income with the average costs of a one bedroom apartment at $27,960 is only 53% economically secure.  At this income level she would be eligible for several food and nutrition programs, as well utility assistance programs. These programs would improve her quality of life and enable her to use her income to cover more of her basic living costs, but she would still fall short of meeting her costs by 21%. The only public benefit program that would help her to close the gap is affordable housing. 

The most costly portion of an elder’s monthly expenses is their housing. More than 46 percent of their income must go towards their housing, taxes and utilities.  This highlights the need for more affordable housing. The state’s housing shortage has been documented for several decades. And the need for affordable housing in the community for people of all ages has only been further stressed by the recent storms and floods across the state. Public awareness is a key component to help local advocates, state policy makers, municipal leaders and planners address current and future needs. Where you live at age 65 or 70?  Persons over age 75 and older have even fewer income assets. Where will your parents live at age 85?

If these funds are not protected and utilized, Otherwise low-income seniors and low-income families will continue to be displaced by Sandy and homeless for many years to come. Each municipality’s affordable housing trust funds are needed now more than ever for the development of new housing because of the impact of hurricane Sandy. We cannot afford to be silent on this issue. Elders who have been active in their community who want to downsize need affordable housing options; working families who want good schools and safe streets need affordable housing; health care workers who want to be close to their work and patients need affordable housing. A healthy blend of housing types is crucial to nurture a community’s cultural and social vitality as well as its economic base. “NJ Strong” must include affordable housing options to serve it residents and to build back the local economy.

*this was submitted and printed as an op-ed in the Asbury Park Press on 6/19/13 by Grace Egan, Executive Director, NJFA

NJFA 14th Annual Conference!

Monday, March 12th, 2012

NJFA 14th Annual Conference!

 NJFA will hold its 14th Annual Conference on Thursday, June 14th at the Crowne Plaza Monroe. This year’s conference, titled, Addressing the Needs of Diverse Populations will feature two nationally recognized keynote speakers.

 The morning keynote presentation will be given by Linda Couch, Senior Vice President for Policy and Research at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Linda oversees NLIHC’s policy and research teams and focuses her work focuses on public and assisted housing, budget and appropriations, the National Housing Trust Fund, and other issues. Ms. Couch will discuss advocacy opportunities and strategies for affordable housing. Her discussion will encourage action on particular issues while educating attendees about issues within the affordable housing network.

The luncheon keynote address will be given by nationally recognized writer, Suzanne Braun Levine. Ms. Braun Levine was the first editor of Ms. Magazine and is the author of a number of books on women, family issues and media. Her new book HOW WE LOVE NOW: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood is the “third chapter” in her ongoing conversation with women in second adulthood, the stage she celebrated in two popular books: 50 Is the New Fifty: 10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood and Inventing the Rest of Our Lives: Women in Second Adulthood. NJFA is pleased to have Ms. Braun Levine speak to the audience at our 14th Annual Conference.

We hope to see you all there! For more information about the conference visit:

 www.njfoundationforaging.org or call us at 609-421-0206.

New Program from NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency to help those facing foreclosure

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

New Jersey HomeKeeper Program

Many people have felt the impact of the recession due to unemployment or underemployment. You may be asking, what is being done to help? New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has announced a new program to help those at risk of losing their home. The program is called New Jersey HomeKeeper and it will be available starting May 9, 2011.
New Jersey HomeKeeper is a program funded through a federal grant from the United States Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund awarded to States most impacted by unemployment and underemployment. The HomeKeeper offers help to New Jersey homeowners who may be facing foreclosure as a direct result of unemployment or underemployment.

The Homekeeper Program is designed to assist the homeowner with mortgage assistance payment and/or arrearages to prevent an occurrence of foreclosure on the home. The program provides financial assistance to qualified homeowners in the form of a 0% interest rate, deferred-payment second mortgage loan. The loan proceeds may be used to cover arrearages and/or a portion of the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payment, including property taxes, property insurance, and mortgage insurance. Homeowners may be eligible for up to $48,000 in assistance for a period of up to 24 months.

If a homeowner sells or refinances their home within the first five years of the closing date of the HomeKeeper mortgage loan, the full amount of the loan will be due and payable upon the sale, transfer or refinance of the property (except for a lower rate/term refinance) or, if the homeowner ceases to occupy the property as his/her primary residence. However, after the fifth year, the HomeKeeper mortgage loan amount would be forgiven 20% per year, to be forgiven in full at the end of the tenth year.

You may be eligible for the Homekeeper program, if within the past 12 months, through no fault, decision or personal circumstance of your own, you or your spouse or civil union partner fall into one of the following category:

  • Became unemployed which caused you to fall behind on your mortgage. You are receiving or are eligible to receive unemployment compensation
    benefits and may have at least 12 more weeks of benefits remaining.
  • Became underemployed (a drop in income of at least 25% from prior or existing employment income) which caused you to fall behind on your mortgage.   
  • Became unemployed or underemployed. While you have stayed current with your mortgage payments thus far, you have not yet regained enough income/resources to continue paying on time for much longer.
  • Became unemployed or underemployed.  You have since regained enough income to pay the mortgage but you need help covering the arrearages that accumulated during the unemployment/underemployment period

To apply for Homekeeper assistance you will need to apply online using a computer with internet access.  The online application(available May 9th) contains all of the information that you will need to begin your application for assistance, with step by step instructions and prompts to help you.

If you do not have access to the internet from your residence, public computers can be found throughout many communities at public libraries, educational centers and One Stop Career Centers.

For more information or to apply visit: www.njhomekeeper.gov

Resources for assistance with foreclosures, credit and debt problems

New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency

1-800-654-6873

www.nj-hmfa.com

Novadebt – A Garden State Consumer Credit Counseling Agency

1-800-992-4557

www.novadebt.org

Consumer Credit and Budget Counseling, Inc.

1-800-792-0270

www.cc-bc.com

To find a One Stop Career Center in your County, contact your County Office on Aging, see list on our website at www.njfoundationforaging.org/services.html

Weatherization Programs

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) through the NJ Department of Community Affairs, helps low income families, seniors and disabled residents permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient and comfortable year-round. Making changes to your home that make it more energy efficient you could save as much as 20 to 30 percent on your energy bill. In addition to these savings, energy efficient homes also help the environment and improve your quality of life.

What is weatherization? Weatherization makes sure that your home holds heat or air conditioning in, while keeping cold or hot air out. Weatherizing your home will improve heating efficiency, conserve energy and decrease utility bills. Some examples of assistance with weatherization are insulation, caulking, weather stripping, carbon monoxide detectors and assistance to repair or replace windows, furnace/boiler, appliances, etc.

Eligible applicants must meet the following gross annual income limits:

Family size                         Annual Household Income

1 person                              $21,660

2 person                              $29,140

3 person                              $36,620

4 person                              $44,100

5 person                              $51,580

6 person                              $59,060

If you are eligible based on the guidelines above, you must fill out an application to receive services. To find out more information about the Weatherization Assistance Program in your county or to apply you can contact 1-800-510-3102 or visit, http://www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/wap.html