Tens of thousands apply to NJ’s housing voucher lottery. Only 4,000 will make the waitlist.

 Tens of thousands apply to NJ's housing voucher lottery.  Only 4,000 will make the waitlist.

New Jersey residents who need help paying their rent have until Monday, July 25th to enter a state lottery for housing assistance.

But the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which administers the program, said that in the last week it had already been inundated with far more applications than it can grant via available slots, underscoring the state’s housing affordability crisis.

“We are aware of the critical need for affordable housing in New Jersey and remain committed to investing in programs that help to make New Jersey more affordable to live and raise a family,” Lieutenant Governor and DCA Commissioner Sheila Oliver said in a statement this month . “If you are in need of housing assistance, please take this opportunity to submit an application during the open enrollment period.”

The department said 4,000 households will be selected for the State Rental Assistance Program, which subsidizes rents for very-low-income families and individuals, which the state defines as those making less than 30% of the median family income for their counties. The application lists specific income requirements for each county.

As of Monday — a week after applications opened — 61,509 were received, DCA spokeswoman Gina Trish said. And the open enrollment period still had another week to go.

The program works similarly to federal Section 8 vouchers. Participants contribute 25% to 40% of their income toward rent, and the state covers the rest. The subsidy, however, must be used in New Jersey.

The awards will be made randomly — going to 1,000 people in each of four categories. For the “elderly” category, the head of an applying household must be 62 years of age or older. For the “family” category, the head of a household can be 18 or older, or an emancipated minor. The “disabled” category is open to any household where the head or spouse is permanently disabled. And the “homeless” category is open to households that lack “fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

Applicants who are selected are put on a waitlist. The program reopens once every three to four years, after the state has made its way through that list, Trish said.

The DCA originally announced the pre-application period would close Friday, July 22nd, but extended the period to Monday at 5 pm after experiencing technical glitches with the online application, according to NJ.com.

Residents can apply at nj.gov/dca or call 609-292-4080 for assistance. Specific income limits are posted on the site as well.

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