OCEAN TOWNSHIP - For years, seniors making more than $70,000 annually have been banned from entering New Jersey’s Senior Freeze program, which allows homeowners to freeze their property taxes at their current level after applying. That will change next year due to major reforms secured by Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey which raises the annual income cap to allow homeowners making up to nearly $90,000 to qualify for the program.
“When it was first designed, the Senior Freeze program was supposed to help residents under a certain income level keep their property taxes affordable,” said Houghtaling (D-Neptune). “Unfortunately, it hasn’t kept up with inflation for years, forcing seniors out of the program and preventing new applicants from qualifying.”
The State budget signed into law this June removes a “cap” that has been used to hold the Senior Freeze income ceiling at $70,000 for the past several years, allowing the ceiling to rise to its proper level of nearly $90,000. The new budget also adds an additional $18 million in new funding.
“Our office works hard to make sure that our constituents are aware of this important cost-saving program, but every year, we’re also forced to tell local seniors that they make just a little bit too much to qualify,” said Downey (D-Freehold). “By removing the cap on the Senior Freeze, we’re meeting our commitments under State law and making sure that many more homeowners can make use of it.”
Houghtaling and Downey have also introduced legislation (A-4658) that would transform the Senior Freeze program from a reimbursement to a tax credit. Currently, the program only reimburses homeowners with a check after they’ve already paid a higher tax rate. Under the new bill, the program would refund seniors’ tax credits right away, avoiding months of waiting and cutting administrative costs to save taxpayer dollars.