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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Housing > Landlord-Tenant > Finding a Place and Moving In

Where To Apply for Affordable Rental Housing and Rental Assistance

 

It can be hard to find affordable housing in New Jersey. There are many different types of affordable housing programs.

Many programs are tied to a particular building or complex. Of those programs, some provide units with rents that are below market rate, but the tenant has to pay the full amount. The rent does not change if the household income changes. One example is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which provides a tax incentive to create and rehabilitate affordable housing. Another program unique to New Jersey is “Mount Laurel” housing. New Jersey requires municipalities to provide their “fair share” of their region’s need for affordable housing. This obligation could be fulfilled by offering units for rent at a below market rate.

Other programs provide apartments where your portion of the rent is determined by your household income, and HUD pays the balance. Some examples are public housing, and Section 8 project based assistance.

Still other housing programs provide financial assistance with the rent, but the tenant has to find a place to use the subsidy. The most well-known of these is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which in New Jersey is administered by the State Department of Community Affairs (DCA) as well as many city and county housing authorities. The voucher can be transferred to other housing authorities in the United States. DCA also administers the State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP), which is similar to Section 8, but may only be used in New Jersey. Some SRAP vouchers may be time limited.

Where to Look

Unfortunately, there is no one place to search. You may have to complete a pre-application to enter a lottery to, hopefully, get on
a waiting list. Here are websites to search and some suggestions to help you along the way:

Websites Indicating Which Places Are Taking Applications

  • New Jersey Housing Resource Center, created by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. It includes listings of affordable and accessible units, as well as other rentals. The listings indicate whether there is a waitlist. You can search online, or contact their call center, 1-877-428-8844, and state the counties or towns you are interested in searching, whether you need any accessibility features and other search criteria, and you may receive a list of places to contact.
  • Affordable Homes New Jersey, by Community Grants, Planning and Housing (CGP&H). CGP&H is a private firm that is the Administrative Agent that certifies applicants and manages the waiting list for Mt. Laurel housing for several municipalities. Their page “current listings” includes places that may have no waiting list or a short waiting list.
  • Fair Share Housing Development, a nonprofit corporation that develops and manages very low income, low income, moderate income, senior and disabled housing in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties.
  • Piazza & Associates Inc.:, a private firm that is the Administrative Agent that certifies applicants and manages the waiting list for Mt. Laurel housing for several municipalities. You can search under “discover” for properties by county under the “property directory” and for “quick rentals.”
  • Fair Share Housing Center, a nonprofit advocacy organization that promotes fair housing, and in particular ensures that NJ municipalities meet their affordable housing obligations. You can subscribe to their newsletter (scroll down to the bottom of the page), which may include housing opportunities.
  • Affordable Housing Online , a private site that gathers information about open Section 8 and federally subsidized housing open waiting list. Affordable housing that is specific to New Jersey, such as Mt. Laurel housing, might not appear on this site. You can sign up for their newsletter at affordablehousingonline.com/sign-up to get waiting list opening notifications sent directly to your email.

Other Programs and Websites

  • New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. DCA administers Section 8 vouchers, SRAP vouchers and sometimes short-term rental assistance programs. Check DCA’s news and announcements, and follow DCA on social media to be alerted about open waiting lists and new programs.
  • HUD. You can use this website to search for public housing, federally subsidized housing, and HUD regional offices; this website will provide addresses and contact information.
  • Public Housing Authorities is a list of public housing authorities in New Jersey that have websites. If you follow them on social media, you may receive alerts about any open waiting lists.
  • Individual municipal websites. Since each municipality has an affordable housing obligation, some may list affordable rentals on their municipal websites.

There may also be resources for specialized populations, such as:

  • Veterans: VA Homeless Programs, includes information about the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, 877-424-3838, and about HUD’s VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
  • Senior Citizens: Your county office on aging may have housing resources. See the New Jersey Division of Aging County Offices on Aging page for a directory of those county offices.

How do I know if eligible?

Usually, a household income has to be “low income,” “very low income,” or “extremely low income” according to HUD Area Median Income Limits. If a property is advertised as available, or a waiting list is advertised as open, the income limits are typically posted on the announcement. Eligibility criteria vary by program. There may be asset limitations. There may be restrictions based upon immigration status, but assistance may be prorated for households where some members are eligible and others are not. There are laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to criminal history, credit history, and eviction history. If you are denied affordable housing, you should seek legal assistance immediately to discuss your rights.

It is also is helpful to know if there are any “preferences” when you apply. Housing providers and rental assistance programs may target certain populations and give those households priority when managing their wait lists. For example, a municipal public housing authority may give a preference to households where a member currently lives or works in that town. Other preferences could be based upon whether the household is homeless, includes a veteran, includes a victim of domestic violence, or other demographics. Any preferences may be mentioned on the announcement of an open waiting list. If you are applying for public housing, eligibility and selection policies will be in the housing authorities Administrative and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP), which is available to the public and maybe on the housing authority’s website. If you are applying for Section 8, those polices would be in the housing authority’s Administrative Plan, which should have the same availability. Someone who does not fit a preference category should still apply to get on the waiting list. 

Tips on applying:

  • Apply to several places. Sometimes an open waiting list means that you must submit a pre-application to be entered into a lottery, to hopefully be selected to get on a waiting list. Waiting lists could be months or years long.
  • If a 3rd party posts information about available affordable housing or an open waiting list, check the source. Go to the home page of the complex or agency taking the applications, or contact them, and make sure that you have all of the correct information.
  • Keep documents that you may need. If you get on a waiting list, you will be asked to complete a full application, and then later you may be asked to update your information. Keep proof of current income like recent pay stubs, a Social Security award letter, print out of child support payments, etc. Also keep other important documents for all household members like a current government-issued picture identification cards, Social Security cards, and birth certificates.
  • Update your contact information. If a housing or rental assistance provider cannot reach you, you may be taken off a waiting list.

  • If you need a reasonable accommodation due to a disability in order to apply or complete the application process, ask for it. Try to keep a record of your request. If there is no response to your request, or if it is denied, seek legal assistance because you may have rights under state or federal civil rights laws.
  • New Jersey has laws stating that landlords cannot discriminate based upon a tenant’s source of income, which includes rental assistance. If you are denied a unit because you are on rental assistance, you should seek legal assistance.
  • Keep copies. Keep copies of your application and anything you submit, as well as any confirmation that documents were submitted on time.

What if I am facing eviction and need assistance now?

See legal assistance. You may have defenses. For information about rental assistance and housing resources, go to Homelessness Prevention and Rental Assistance.