Renters, community leaders in Asbury Park call for accountability over what they call misuse of rental aid
Renters and community leaders held a meeting Wednesday to discuss how to hold people accountable after it was revealed that over $2 million in rental aid for poor residents was used instead for expensive renovations for landlords.
In 2014, Lanece Ferguson's landlord applied for assistance from the town and got it. The money was used for new siding and to fix the roof. The landlord then nearly doubled the rent forcing Lanece out.
The money was from a statewide program called Regional Contribution Agreements.
The issue has been a concern in Asbury Park for a while with the rising cost of housing for working people as expensive development moves from the beach to other areas.
"We call it two cities, says Tracy Rogers, of Asbury Park Affordable Housing Coalition. "But actually, the two cities are combining because they have taken over one side and now moving into the other and you see houses being sold by realtors at high exorbitant rates that most of the people on the other side of the tracks who are able to live here cannot even afford it anymore. So, the tale of two cities is almost becoming a tale of one city for the rich."
Real estate is booming in Asbury Park and around the country. The advocates say the misuse of the program shines a spotlight on how hard it is to find an affordable home.
Asbury Park officials say they're aware of the mismanagement allegations, and they will work toward solutions through the town's affordable housing program.