Freeholders Renew Somerset Cty.’s Homelessness Trust Fund

Posted on January 22, 2018

The Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders has renewed the county’s 8-year-old Homelessness Trust Fund and, in light of its ongoing success, reauthorized the program without a sunset provision.

In 2010, the Freeholder Board passed a resolution creating the trust fund and giving the County Clerk the authority to attach a $3 surcharge to the county’s document-recording fee. The board also appoints a committee – including two freeholders, county staff and community members – that sets priorities for the use of the funding and has the authority to continue, change or add programs.

“To date, the fund has collected $842,630,” said Freeholder Patricia Walsh, the trust fund liaison. “Of that amount, $328,060 has been allocated for rental assistance, $135,000 for case management, $23,716 for financial literacy training, $55,000 for legal assistance, $42,329 for planning and administration, and $257,059 for housing construction.”

Since 2010, the Homelessness Trust Fund has provided rental assistance to 105 households. There currently are 13 clients in the rental assistance program; the average subsidy is $280. Rental assistance program guidelines have expanded to help with rental arrears. Alternatives Inc. recently completed the Franklin House Expansion project with housing-rehabilitation money from the trust fund, and Habitat for Humanity is building two homes on DelMonico Avenue in Franklin. Community Hope will use trust fund money to add units to the Valley Brook Village project on the VA campus in Bernards.

This program provides up to 15 months of rental assistance and case management. The goal of the program is to help clients become aware of and access resources to help increase their chances of maintaining permanent housing within Somerset County. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they will be able to afford their housing without rental assistance within 15 months, complete a monthly household budget, maintain monthly contact with a case manager and apply to the Savings Match Program that is sponsored by the Central Jersey Housing Resource Center. For more information or an application, call the Community Development Office at (908) 541-5756.

The need for rental assistance is highlighted in the Out of Reach 2017 report, which identifies Somerset County as one of the most expensive counties in New Jersey, with a housing wage – the amount a household must earn per hour working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year in order to pay less than 30 percent of its income on rent – of $31.81 per hour for a two-bedroom and $40.56 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The report also notes that one person living in Somerset County must work 151 hours per week at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent of $1,654 or 192 hours per week to afford a three-bedroom apartment at the FMR of $2,109.

Data from the Somerset County 2017 Point in Time Survey shows that there are approximately 193 adults and 51 homeless children in Somerset County. By comparison, last year’s survey reported 180 homeless adults and 38 homeless children. Of the homeless population, 173 people (71 percent) live in transitional housing, while 66 people (27 percent) live in emergency shelters.

Source: Somerset County Office of Public Information