NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - For municipalities such as New Brunswick who are bracing for the fallout when Gov. Phil Murphy’s statewide eviction moratorium is lifted, there was some good news Friday.
Murphy announced that owners of apartment buildings impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for aid out of a $25 million bucket, as long as they forgive back rent and fees their tenants owe.
Under the Small Landlord Emergency Grant Program, landlords who own apartments consisting of three and 10 units will be able to apply starting next week for an emergency grant under the federal stimulus CARES Act to help cover rental income lost between April and July.
Friday’s news comes less a month after Murphy announced a $100 million rental assistance program to provide assistance to low- and moderate-income households that have had a substantial reduction in income as a result of the pandemic, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
It's all good news for municipalities such as New Brunswick, who can’t predict what will happen once Murphy lifts the moratorium on evictions.
At that point, Mayor Jim Cahill thinks landlords are going to have not only make business decisions, but as he termed it, “people decisions.”
“In a community like New Brunswick, not dissimilar from a lot of other communities, a lot is going to depend upon the individual relationships between landlords and tenants,” he said. “Yes, a landlord, let's say will be due six months’ worth of rent. And let's say the tenant has the ability to pay three months’ worth of rent and looks like they can pay going forward. As a landlord, you have to make a decision. Do I evict someone who has who owes me six months’ worth of rent? Or do I work something out with that tenant that they pay me three months of rent, I forgive three months but going forward, I know I'm going to have a tenant who's been a good tenant, and a steady payer, but for the pandemic.”
It’s unclear how many residents in the city or across the state are behind on their rent, but since March 18, some 1.4 million New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment benefits.
The loss of income for workers in several industries forced to cut in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has left housing advocates such as Staci Berger, the president of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, sounding the alarms.
“It will explode into a tidal wave if we don’t do something,” she said in an NJSpotlight report.
Cahill told TAPinto New Brunswick on Friday the recently adopted $96 million municipal budget does not include a renters insurance bucket of money. He said that would be counterproductive, and a better use of tax dollars is to use it to fund social services.
“If you raise the taxes to provide that kind of relief, you're costing people more money,” Cahill said. “Let's talk about the landlords and the tenants. You would be charging, as the taxpayer in question, the landlords would then have to pay more money that they don't have that they would wind up trying to collect from tenants who don't have the money, which just increases the financial burden on both the landlord and thus the tenant, which then increases the chances of somebody being evicted.”
As for the $25 million program Murphy unveiled Friday, the grant amount will depend on the amount of income lost and number of rental units for low- and moderate-income tenants. Landlords can apply for the Small Landlord Grant Program starting August 19 at 9 a.m.