‘Making it more affordable’

Assemblyman Roy Freiman (left), Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (center), Sen. Andrew Zwicker (right) listen to a senior's question on StayNJ at Community Town Hall inside the Princeton Senior Resource Center on Aug. 1.

StayNJ will allow older generation to stay in community

Through the StayNJ program, the older generation can “spend their retirement years continuing to live in the communities they love, near family and friends,” according to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19).

Coughlin joined by State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-16), spoke to a room full of seniors at the Princeton Senior Resource Center. They fielded questions and spoke to the benefits of the new tax relief program designed to help reduce taxes for eligible seniors on Aug. 1.

“We all know the stories anecdotally or otherwise about seniors who have to make hard decisions on whether they get to stay in the community they built, the town they love, and near the people they love and care about,” Coughlin said.

StayNJ, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law on June 30, will provide an annual 50% property tax credit for eligible seniors age 65 and over capping at $6,500, which will also be indexed to future property tax increases. There is a cap income for eligible seniors of $500,000.

“StayNJ, I think will be a transformative program in the state of New Jersey, which, when implemented, is designed to cut in half senior property taxes for almost 97% of seniors in New Jersey,” Coughlin said, noting it may take a little while to implement.

“…All good things take time.”

The plan is for StayNJ to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2026.

Zwicker said his mother, a retired school teacher from Bergen County, got him thinking about doing something transformative when it comes to property taxes.

“…She lived on a pension, lived on social security, and was really struggling up to the last day of her life,” he said, noting their talks about “her about the everyday struggles she had after 30 years of being a public school educator.”

Over the next two years, as part of the transition, there will be a $250 boost through Affordable New Jersey Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) for senior homeowners and tenants as the StayNJ is being implemented.

The $54 billion state budget expands the ANCHOR property tax relief program, providing eligible senior renters and tenants with the $250 boost in relief payments. Tenants will receive $700, while homeowners can receive a maximum of $1,750.

Additionally, eligibility for the Senior Freeze program has been expanded by raising the annual income eligibility to $150,000, up from $99,700.

Additional tax relief in ANCHOR benefits is expected in the next round of applications in 2025, Coughlin said.

A six-member commission is going to make recommendations by May 2024 to implement StayNJ through a singular program and application.

Three members and the executive director of the Commission will be appointed by Murphy and the other members are going to be appointed by the state legislature.

The Commission is also set to be tasked with simplifying current ANCHOR and Senior Freeze programs.

“Part of the challenge of doing this is consolidating and putting together all of those programs into one cohesive plan,” Coughlin said. “They all have different requirements, starting points, eligibility. The idea of this Commission is to put that all together.

“The purpose of designing this common application is so that when the information is submitted, the Department of Treasury will look at it and say this person benefits more from Senior Freeze plus ANCHOR or this person benefits more from StayNJ and you will get the highest piece of it.”

The application will be on an annual basis.

“It has taken us awhile to get here,” Freiman said. “It is making it more affordable and giving you the option to be with your children, grandchildren and allowing everyone to stay together.”

Thousands of seniors across the state will benefit from the additional property tax relief payments this year and beyond, Freiman added.

“The changes will be especially beneficial for our residents who live on a fixed income. We’ve worked very hard to address affordability issues for our seniors.”

State officials called the plan “permanent” explaining there is “$100 million, $200 million, and $300 million in a lock box for the next three years to offset the cost for StayNJ program’s first year.”

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