DCA Launches Comprehensive Eviction Defense and Diversion Program in All Court Vicinages in New Jersey

  • Posted on: 06/26/2023

Statewide Program Will Provide Low-Income Households at Risk of Eviction with Legal Services and Case Workers

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) today announced the launch of the Comprehensive Eviction Defense and Diversion (CEDD) program in all court vicinages across the state. Under the program, low-income households at risk of eviction will have access to both legal services and experienced caseworkers, known as resource navigators, for a wrap-around defense against housing displacement. The new CEDD program is an expansion of successful eviction prevention pilot programs that DCA administered in 2021 and 2022.

“In a post-pandemic world where existing vulnerabilities of our working families have exacerbated housing burdens and revealed new ones, DCA is demonstrating a new way to serve the most vulnerable renters across New Jersey,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “People in crisis need a streamlined, one-stop shop of immediate support. I’m excited that DCA is able to provide this resource, as well as strengthen our network of providers across the eviction and homelessness prevention ecosystem.”

The CEDD program’s resource navigators are experienced in homelessness prevention, relocation and rapid rehousing, social services support, rental assistance resources, and crisis intervention. Furthermore, resource navigators have access to financial assistance that can be used to help households at risk of eviction mitigate emergencies, cover rental arrears or relocation expenses, and fund tenant legal defenses.

CEDD expands the number of resource navigators from 28 under the previous pilot programs to 48. The resource navigators are hired and managed by 13 social services agencies that are partnering with DCA on the program. Additionally, CEDD expands the number of communities served from three cities under the previous pilot programs to all municipalities across the state.

“Expanding eviction prevention capacity through a more expansive, stronger, and more coordinated and diverse network of intervention is fast becoming a more successful practice in fighting evictions across the country,” said DCA Assistant Commissioner Janel Winter, who serves as director of DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources. 

Resource navigators and attorneys are paired in every court vicinage and required to coordinate their intake, screening, and data reporting so that household information is collected and reported uniformly, consistently, and without causing further harm or creating barriers. 

During the pilot programs that inspired the more expansive CEDD initiative, DCA saw data that supports a more comprehensive and coordinated wraparound intervention in eviction rooted in diversion. For example, of the 5,100 households assisted during the pilot programs, more than 86 percent avoided eviction and remained in their housing due to the assistance of resource navigators and attorneys intervening to provide immediate, nimble, and coordinated support that ensured legal defenses while removing barriers to rental assistance.

Other pilot program data showed the median annual household income of households assisted was $24,000, 90 percent of households assisted were considered ‘housing cost-burdened’, and 66 percent of the households were considered ‘severely cost-burdened.’ Women (mostly single mothers) assisted were more than double the number of men assisted and households assisted that identified as Black, African-American or of color were nearly three times the number of households that identified as white, mirroring national eviction trends. Furthermore, 15 percent of women facing eviction identified as survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence. Too often tenants entered into court-approved eviction settlements without legal representation or rent arrears verification. The pilot programs demonstrated a coordinated and comprehensive intervention as immediate problem-solving supported by flexible funding served to defend against homelessness and divert at-risk households from eviction.

DCA issued a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP) for the CEDD program in January and applications were due in February. DCA selected 13 nonprofit social services agencies and three legal services providers. CEED is funded by $7.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars with $5.1 million allocated for resource navigators and $2.3 million allocated for legal services.

Though eviction filings in New Jersey have declined when compared to pre-pandemic levels, eviction risk due to rent arrearage and utility bill arrearage remains elevated in the state compared to national levels. Eviction filings have stabilized in urban areas, but there is an increase in eviction filings in suburban and rural communities where limited access to supportive services exacerbates housing instability. Essex and Hudson counties had the highest share of statewide eviction filings for 2022 followed by Camden, Middlesex, Union, Passaic, Bergen, Burlington, and Atlantic / Cape May counties. Resource navigators were allocated to court vicinages accordingly.

As CEDD launches and all providers are onboarded, a roster of providers by court vicinage will be widely shared along with materials about the program. DCA estimates being able to serve 15,000 households facing or threatened with eviction. The program is being operated and overseen by DCA’s Office of Eviction Prevention (OEP).

The Division of Housing and Community Resources is committed to strengthening neighborhoods through the delivery of affordable housing and supportive services and to providing financial and technical assistance to municipalities, community action agencies, and other nonprofit organizations for community and economic development projects that improve the quality of life for residents, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.

For more information about DCA, visit https://nj.gov/dca/ or follow the Department on social media: 

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   Lisa Ryan, Tammori Petty, Judith Drucker