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Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness

Advocacy Issues

Local Current Priority

Restore Essential Revenue to Trenton, our State Capital

The Governor’s proposed budget cuts out $34M in payments from the State of New Jersey to Trenton, which are paid in lieu of taxes. A huge percentage of Trenton’s available land is occupied by State buildings and parking lots, which produce no tax revenue to pay for essential city services that are used by State buildings and employees. We cannot have a functioning Trenton if essential services are cut.

Call the Governor and your legislator to insist that the $34M in cuts to Trenton be restored.

Candidates answer Mercer Alliance’s Questions (link to the page with the list.


Would you like to work in your own community in Mercer County to advocate for housing?

Please contact Herb Levine, hlevine@merceralliance.org or 609-844-1008

State Current Priority

State Budget Priorities

Contact the Governor and your State legislators to express your commitment to preserving the social safety net for our neighbors.

Your message should include:

  1. Preserve General Assistance, $140 per month to our most vulnerable neighbors.
  2. No cuts to EITC, which constitute a tax-increase to working people.
  3. No cuts to our Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  4. Our need for a State housing plan -- without it we will not be able to qualify for many Federal housing grants.

State Policy priorities

Contact the Commissioners of Human Services, Jennifer Velez, and the Commissioner of Community Affairs, Lori Grifa, to express your support for the policy recommendations of the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness.

Your message should highlight:

  1. Our need for a single statewide system to end homelessness, based on a uniform assessment of need.
  2. The importance of adopting national best practice models --Housing First, Rapid Rehousing, Targeted Prevention -- which are focused on preventing and ending homelessness, not managing it.
  3. Our priority should be targeting resources for housing and services to those with the most intense need for them.


Federal Current Priority

Help Strengthen Our Communities

Policy Recommendations of the Housing Community Development Network (HCDNNJ) and the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness (NJANEH)

1. Build the capacity of federal housing resources to address the housing needs of very low income workers and people on fixed incomes:

Problem: The section 8 rental assistance voucher program is currently the best vehicle to help very low-income (e.g. under 30% of median income or earning under $25,000year for a family of four) working people and people on fixed incomes afford the high housing costs in New Jersey. A person on SSI receives $583/month and a family of three on TANF receives $424/month. Over 1/3 of the jobs in NJ pay under $25,000/year. There are over a million low income people who pay over half their income to live in New Jersey.


  • The Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, H.R. 3045 passed out of the House Financial Services committee in 2009. This bill will improve the Housing Choice Voucher program for tenants and housing authorities alike.
  • The National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act (NHTF) would establish dedicated sources of funds for the production, preservation and rehabilitation of 1.5 million affordable homes over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the Trust Fund has no funding source. President Obama has provided for $1 billion funding in his FY11 budget proposal.
  • A limited proposal to provide an exchange program for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) used in connection with bond financing was included in H.R. 4849, the Small Business and Infrastructure Jobs Tax Act of 2010, which passed the House on March 24th.

Action: Pass the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act in the House and have it introduced and passed in the Senate. Find a revenue source for the NHTF. Stimulate the LIHTC market by promoting investors return to the marketplace and re-start stalled projects.

2. Strengthen our economy by preserving housing that is currently affordable:

Problem: New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the nation to rent a two-bedroom apartment. Over ¼ million low and moderate-income New Jersey residents have severe housing needs, meaning that they pay over 50% of their income on housing. HUD's own recent worst case housing needs report finds that “worsening shortages of housing affordable and available to extremely-low-income renters…show the underlying gap between demand and supply continues.” We cannot afford to lose any housing that is currently affordable in the state.

Background: H.R. 4868, the Housing Preservation and Tenant Protection Act is comprehensive legislation to prevent the loss of affordable housing dwelling units.

Among the provisions of the bill, it would:

  • Allow owners to request project-based assistance (either project-based rental assistance or project-based voucher assistance) in lieu of enhanced voucher assistance. In exchange for receiving such assistance, an owner would be required to maintain affordability of 20 years.
  • Protect the rights of states and local governments to enact strong preservation legislation.

The bill also would enhance the ability of tenants to protect and preserve their homes

Action: Pass HR 4868 and its Senate counterpart.

3. Create a real program to end homelessness:

Problem: There is no place in New Jersey where the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is affordable to someone working full-time earning under $25,000/year, receiving SSI or TANF. The recent economic crisis and high unemployment has lead to a record number of New Jersey residents becoming homeless. Unless programs to address homelessness are strengthened in coming years — community plans to end homelessness are not likely to succeed in meeting their worthy goals.


  • Reforms to HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act were signed into law last year. These reforms will address prevention but we also need at least $2.4 billion funding to help produce new permanent housing. The President’s proposed budget increases funding from $1.865 to $2.055 billion.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is an important program to address the needs of the homeless. $120 million in funding is needed to help pay for services in supportive housing. At least $15.8 million, as requested in the President’s budget, is needed for wrap-around services that can be tied to a voucher.
  • Provide funding for 250,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers, including the $85 million in the President’s budget to provide approximately 10,000 new housing vouchers for people who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. Support the proposal for a new Transforming Rental Assistance (TRA) initiative that would begin to combine funding streams for 13 HUD programs into one flexible and streamlined source of funding.
  • Enact S.1547, Zero Tolerance for Homeless Veterans Act and S.1160/ H.R. 403, Homes for Heroes Act.

Actions: Support the legislation and appropriations listed above.

4. Fully fund HUD housing programs.

Problem: In past years there has been an underfunding of essential housing programs. Homelessness is expanding across the country. The number of Americans who receive rent subsidies remains stuck at about one fourth of those eligible. The stock of housing affordable to those at the bottom of the income scale due to disability, poor education, or disappearing jobs continues to deteriorate. The building blocks of community development and affordable housing help ensure the future sustainability of many communities and encourage critically needed private sector investment and business growth. A serious effort to rebuild these important resources is necessary.

Action: In addition to appropriations listed above we raise the following:

  • Support inclusion of 100% of funds needed to cover public housing operating costs, a positive increase from previous budget requests, as well as the renewal of existing housing choice vouchers and project-based contracts.
  • Restore the proposed cuts to the HOME program from $1.825 to $1.65 billion. With the cut in state housing funds, HOME is critical to help fund housing production and rental assistance in NJ.

Restore the cuts in programs that produce housing for very low income seniors and people with disabilities (the cuts to Section 202 from $825 to $274 million and the cuts in the 811 programs from $300 to $90 million).

Our shared responsibility for those on life support

In the give-and-take of the budget negotiations that are now in process, we think it important that our governor and legislators learn that cutting $140 per month to those on General Assistance (GA) will not save the state money, but will actually cost it far more.

To appreciate their vulnerability, we need to look at who the GA recipients are. Those who are designated as "employable" receive $140 per month, but don't be fooled by that term. A significant percentage of those classified as employable are not. They are suffering with mental illness and/or problems with drugs and alcohol. Indeed, their addictions often developed to help them alleviate the pain of their mental illness and their poverty. Many have been recently released from county or state institutions. Many are veterans. Many do not have the follow-through capacity to secure the paperwork necessary to be classified as unemployable and receive the higher benefit of $210 per month. Others have limited skills for employment, and when they are employed, they work seasonally as day laborers and earn very little money. They were hard-hit by the recession and they have not yet been carried forward by the recovery.

Read More

For More Information

Please Contact: Tarry Truitt, Communications and Project Manager, ttruitt@merceralliance.org or 609-844-1008


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