The board voted Oct. 26 to appropriate $3 million of the county’s federal American Rescue Plan Act allocation to fund the new Burlington County Affordable Housing Grant Program. Nonprofit organizations will be eligible to apply for a grant to support efforts to develop new affordable housing units within the county, including special populations such as families experiencing homelessness, housing instability or escaping a domestic violence situation.
“Burlington County is a premier destination where families want to live and businesses want to be, and a major reason why is our affordability,” said Burlington County Commissioner Dan O’Connell. “We want all residents to be able to live securely and benefit from our county’s great schools, job opportunities, parks and overall quality of life, so taking action to support affordable housing is key.”
Program guidance and official notices of the grant opportunities are being developed and are expected to be available soon.
The grant program follows the county’s successful partnership with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to distribute emergency rental assistance to Burlington County families facing hardships during the pandemic. More than $13 million in aid was distributed to over 1,700 households.
Burlington County also launched a Housing Hub at the Department of Human Services Building in 2019 to provide a single location for residents experiencing housing hardships to seek help from multiple agencies and programs. Since the program’s inception, the Housing Hub has assisted thousands of residents and offered help ranging from emergency shelter and rental assistance to aid for other housing expenses, including security deposits, utility fees, application fees and credit reviews.
There is new evidence the county’s programs are working. New Jersey’s annual homeless survey revealed the number of people experiencing homelessness in Burlington County in 2022 declined three percent compared to 2021. The county was one of seven counties in New Jersey that experienced a decrease.
Meanwhile, a 2022 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition showed Burlington County’s fair market rent of $1,298 for a 2-bedroom unit was $400 lower than the New Jersey average, but that a household would still need to earn at least $51,920 annually to avoid paying more than 30 percent of its income on housing.
“Our board has made it our mission to eliminate homelessness in Burlington County and we’ve taken some important steps towards that objective. We’re proud of the programs we’ve created and the assistance our county has provided,” said Burlington County Commissioner Felicia Hopson, the liaison to the Department of Human Services. “At the same time, we recognize that more needs to be done and far too many residents continue to face housing hardships and pressures because of rising rents or soaring home prices. We believe this new grant program can have a meaningful impact by supporting those nonprofits that are working to create more affordable housing options for those already living and working in our county.”