Legislation sponsored by Monmouth County State Senator Declan O'Scanlon (R) to allow seniors to downsize their homes without jeopardizing property tax reimbursements has been approved by the NJ Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

O'Scanlon said that the bill (S-566) would allow an eligible homeowner, who is at least 65-years old, has lived in the state for at least 10-years and has occupied their primary residence for at least three years, to receive a reimbursement immediately following a move to a new home, rather than waiting nearly two years as currently required under state law.

“The Senior Freeze provides needed property tax relief for older homeowners, including many who are struggling to make ends meet on fixed incomes,” O’Scanlon (R-13) said in a statement. “While the majority of senior citizens live in one- or two-person households, only a small percentage of them reap the savings provided by selling their family home and downsizing. This measure will ensure if an eligible homeowner does move to a smaller, more affordable home, it will not jeopardize their reimbursement."

O'Scanlon explained that the homestead property tax reimbursement program which was enacted in 1997 and is also known as the Senior Freeze program, provides property tax relief to eligible seniors and homeowners with disabilities by reimbursing eligible claimants for property tax increases that occur after the claimant becomes eligible for the program.

As of now, when a claimant moves to a new homestead, they become ineligible for the reimbursement for up to three years.

O’Scanlon’s bill would eliminate the penalty for moving to a new homestead for most claimants.

“The intention of the Senior Freeze is to provide assistance with New Jersey’s sky-high property taxes to vulnerable seniors who deserve a break,” O’Scanlon said. “They shouldn’t be penalized for moving into a more affordable residence. The current system actually incentivizes people to pack up and move out of state.”

This legislation is directed to help senior citizens and as such not everyone is eligible for the programs, which for non-seniors they have a household income cutoff of $75,000 and that’s lower than the state’s median household income which is estimated at $76,475.

It’s part of why the number of homeowners receiving homestead credits is down 40 percent over the past decade.

The number of seniors whose property tax increases have been reimbursed by the state through the Senior Freeze program is down 17 percent since its 2012 peak.

The number of new signups is at a new low.

Previous reporting by Michael Symons was used in this report.

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