Pilot program launched in East Orange to divert evictions

TRENTON, NJ — The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs launched the Expanded Access to Counsel and Homelessness Diversion Anti-Eviction Pilot Program in August to help low-income residents stay in their homes when threatened with or facing eviction, according to an Aug. 25 press release. The pilot program is operating in three cities — East Orange, Atlantic City and Trenton — and is providing tenants in these communities with access to legal representation and a supportive safety net to help them avoid eviction and homelessness.

The pilot program’s launch coincides with the winding down of the state’s eviction moratorium. Its approach is to coordinate legal and social services for tenants at risk of eviction in an effort to prevent recurring housing insecurity while reducing barriers to justice in court.

“In advance of the state’s eviction moratorium being lifted for some tenants this month, DCA developed different strategies such as this Anti-Eviction Pilot Program to keep people stably housed,” said Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA commissioner. “We recognize that tenants who are low-income too often rely on brief legal advice or even just a hotline in their eviction cases. This program is a way to address this unmet need for full and quality legal counsel while also providing other services to help people stay in their homes.”

During the one-year pilot period, the program will provide direct funding to designated legal services and social services providers in each of the three target municipalities to defend against eviction and to divert eviction by way of emergency grants, short-term rental arrears payments, relocation assistance, and other supportive services as necessary and appropriate. 

East Orange, Atlantic City and Trenton were selected for the pilot program based on their eviction filings, shelter entries, homelessness rates, local poverty levels and data showing eviction as a main contributing factor of housing displacement. The selected municipalities also reflect geographic parity and where networks of supportive services on the ground are strong. 

The Anti-Eviction Pilot Program includes funding for an evaluation component to determine the program’s success in each target municipality, where adjustments need to be made, and the program’s potential for replication in other municipalities or statewide after the pilot period.