BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ— The New Jersey State Senate introduced a bill yesterday to permit municipalities to establish a preference for first responders when it comes to affordable housing.  

Mayor Devanney stated, “I am so proud to have led the movement to get this bill reintroduced in the State Senate yesterday. In a bi-partisan effort, Senator Kean and Senator Smith have come together to make this happen for our first responders. I thank them both for their leadership on this issue.” 

In a statement issued last week by Mayor Devanney and Fire Chief Tony Padovano, Devanney announced she was working with legislators to reintroduce the legislation.

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“I know that recruitment of volunteers for the fire and rescue squad is difficult for a small town like ours. I gave my commitment to our volunteers and first responders to give them the tools and outside-the-box thinking to make this happen,” noted Mayor Devanney. 

In addition to Senator Kean’s sponsorship, Mayor Devanney also acknowledged the support and assistance of Senator Joe Cryan, Senator Nick Scutari and Assemblyman Jamel Holley for jump-starting the bill in the Assembly. She noted that the bi-partisan Union County legislative delegation is committed to its first responders. 

The bill allows for low- and moderate-income first responders to be prioritized for affordable housing in New Jersey. Union County’s affordable housing regional income levels by household include moderate income of $73,857 for 1-person, $84,408 for 2-person households, $94,959 for 3-person household and $105,510 for 4-person household. See Department of Community Affairs guidelines for more information:

Berkeley Heights Township will build more than 700 units with at least 119 dedicated affordable units over the next several years. If the legislation passes the Senate and Governor Phil Murphy signs it, 50 percent of the Township’s affordable housing units will be dedicated to paid and volunteer first responders who qualify. 

Mayor Devanney concluded, “I look forward to monitoring this bill in the State Senate and State Assembly and am grateful for support from our legislative delegation for our volunteer and paid first responders during these unprecedented and difficult times as we all navigate a global pandemic.”

DESCRIPTION:pdf This bill, as amended, permits municipalities to establish an affordable housing preference for first responders.  Under the bill, a municipality would be authorized to enter into agreements with developers to provide affordable housing occupancy preferences for low and moderate income first responders, who meet certain service requirements, of up to 50 percent of the affordable units in a particular project.  Current law does not provide any preference for first responders who otherwise qualify for affordable housing.

For the purposes of the bill, “first responder” is defined as a law enforcement officer; paid or volunteer firefighter; paid or volunteer member of a duly incorporated first aid, emergency, ambulance, or rescue squad association; or any other person who, in the course of the person’s employment, is dispatched to the scene of a motor vehicle accident or other emergency situation for the purpose of providing medical care or other assistance; and who, in the case of all the foregoing, has served in that capacity for at least two years.