Senator RONALD L. RICE
District 28 (Essex)
Requires Commissioner of Community Affairs to establish the "Senior Citizen Home Repair and Modification Program”; appropriates $10 million.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Actconcerning home repair assistance for certain senior citizens, supplementing chapter 27D of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes, and making an appropriation.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Senior Citizen Home Repair and Modification Act."
2. As used in this act:
"Code enforcement officer" means a local housing code enforcement officer certified by the Department of Community Affairs.
"Lowest responsive estimate" means an estimate by a qualified contractor whose response to a request for an estimate offers the lowest price, conforming in all material respects to the terms and conditions, specifications, legal requirements, and other provisions of the request.
"Qualified contractor" means a person engaged in the business of performing home repair, including electrical and plumbing work, who meets all of the necessary certification, licensing, and work quality requirements established pursuant to State law.
3. The Commissioner of Community Affairs shall develop and implement a program to be known as the "Senior Citizen Home Repair and Modification Program," the purpose of which shall be to assist eligible senior citizens across the State in making repairs or modifications to their homes to remove or remedy any violations of the standards of fitness for human habitation as are set forth in State or local housing or health codes or regulations, or any other conditions dangerous to life, health or safety. The program shall offer both financial assistance, in the form of grants, low-interest loans with a deferred repayment option, or a combination of both, as well as assistance in identifying, selecting, and hiring a qualified contractor. The program shall include, but shall not be limited to, the following guidelines:
a. An "eligible senior citizen" shall be a homeowner at least 65 years of age, whose gross household income is equal to or less than 50% of the area median income figure determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for the geographic area in which the home is located.
b. The program shall be available Statewide to any eligible senior citizen, but only for a one to four family residential building that an eligible senior citizen has owned and occupied as a principal residence for at least five years.
c. The "eligible repairs or modifications" allowed under the program shall include, but need not be limited to:
(1) alterations to facilitate the safe movement of the senior citizen inside the home, such as the installation of hand rails in a bathroom and other accessibility modifications;
(2) minor, non-structural repairs, such as plumbing, painting, and repairing a broken window; and
(3) major structural, health and safety repairs, or repairs necessary to correct housing code violations, such as roof, floor, and porch replacement, major plumbing, and heating system replacement.
d. Determination of an applicant's eligibility for program participation shall include:
(1) review of a written application, accompanied by the applicant's proof of age, income, home ownership, and residence; and
(2) verification of the need for the repairs or modifications requested as evidenced by an inspection by the local code enforcement officer.
e. Financial assistance shall be awarded for an eligible applicant as a grant, a low-interest loan, or a combination of both, based on need and the applicant's ability to pay. The amount awarded shall not exceed the costs involved in making the approved repairs or modifications, as determined pursuant to subsection f. of this section, and subject to the following limits per applicant:
(1) a maximum grant amount of $5,000;
(2) a maximum low-interest loan amount of $15,000; or
(3) a combination of both, not to exceed $20,000.
Any loan amount awarded to an applicant pursuant to the program shall bear an interest rate no greater than 3%. The program shall offer the applicant the option to repay the loan amount according to a reasonable repayment schedule, or to defer repayment of the loan amount plus accrued interest until the home is sold or until the applicant ceases to permanently reside at the home.
All funds awarded for an eligible applicant pursuant to the program shall be determined and disbursed by a program administrator in accordance with subsection f. of this section.
f. For all approved applications, a program administrator shall assist the eligible applicant to:
(1) request at least three estimates from licensed, qualified contractors;
(2) enter into a contract for the repairs with the qualified contractor who provided the lowest responsive estimate;
(3) once the repairs have been completed, request a re-inspection of the property by the local code enforcement officer to verify that the repairs were performed as agreed;
(4) disburse payment to the contractor.
g. The program also shall offer a tax credit to a qualified contractor who performs the needed repairs or modifications free of charge, in an amount equal to the cost of the labor and materials expended, but not to exceed $5,000. The contractor tax credit element of the program shall be modeled and implemented in a manner similar to the "Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program" currently implemented by the department under the "Neighborhood Revitalization State Tax Credit Act," P.L.2001, c.415 (C.52:27D-490 et seq.).
4. Within 120 days following the enactment of this act, the Commissioner of Community Affairs shall, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), promulgate the rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of this act.
5. There is appropriated from the General Fund the sum of $10 million to the Department of Community Affairs for the purposes of effectuating the provisions of this act. The department may retain an amount for administrative costs and transaction fees not to exceed 5% of the appropriated funds.
6. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would require the Commissioner of Community Affairs to establish the "Senior Citizen Home Repair and Modification Program," to assist low and moderate income homeowners 65 years of age or older in making repairs to their homes, and in identifying and hiring a qualified contractor. Eligible repairs would range from accessibility modifications to major structural and habitability repairs such as roof replacement. An eligible home would be a one to four family residential building that the eligible senior citizen has owned and occupied as a principal residence for at least five years.
The program would offer grants of up to $5,000 and low-interest loans of up to $15,000 to eligible senior citizens, or a combination of both up to $20,000, based on need and ability to pay. At the discretion of the borrower, a loan awarded under the program would be repaid according to a reasonable repayment schedule, or deferred until the home is sold or until the senior citizen no longer resides there. The program would also offer a tax credit to a contractor who performs the needed work free of charge, up to $5,000.
This bill would appropriate $10 million from the General Fund to the Department of Community Affairs as initial funding for the program and allow the department to retain up to 5% for administrative purposes and transaction fees.