On appeal from the Department of Community Affairs.
Michels, McElroy and J. H. Coleman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
[182 NJSuper Page 623] Respondent Township of Middletown appeals from a final decision of the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, State of New Jersey, awarding relocation assistance
payments to petitioners Ethel McNally (McNally) and Patricia Dolan (Dolan) pursuant to the provisions of the Relocation Assistance Act (N.J.S.A. 20:4-1 et seq.) and the Relocation Assistance Law of 1967 (N.J.S.A. 52:31B et seq.).
In 1977 McNally and Dolan vacated their respective homes after the buildings in which they resided were declared unfit for human habitation by respondent's building inspector. In each instance the building inspector notified petitioner that the building was unfit and therefore condemned. He placed a notice on each building reflecting condemnation and ordered petitioners to vacate the premises. Furthermore, the building inspector threatened legal action in the event that petitioners failed to comply with his orders. Pursuant to the building inspector's orders, petitioners vacated their respective buildings and there-after applied for relocation and rental assistance payments under the foregoing statutes.
The Monmouth County Board of Social Services determined that petitioners were eligible for relocation and rental assistance payments. Each received payments through December 1979, when respondent refused to make any further payments. Respondent's refusal to make further payments followed a change in funding of the relocation assistance program. This change resulted from legislation which reduced state funding for the program from 100% to 50%; as a result, municipalities were required to pay 50% of the program's cost. On appeal to the Department of Community Affairs, the administrative law judge found that petitioners were "displaced persons" within the meaning of the relocation assistance statutes, and that respondent was legally obligated to continue relocation assistance payments. The Commissioner adopted the findings and recommendations of the administrative law judge as the Department's final decision and this appeal followed.
Respondent contends that petitioners do not qualify as "displaced persons" within the meaning of the Relocation Assistance Act and the Relocation Assistance Law of 1967 and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto. We disagree.
N.J.S.A. 20:4-3(c) of the Relocation Assistance Act defines the term "displaced person" as follows:
c. "Displaced person" means any person who, on or after the effective date of this act, moves from real property, or moves his personal property from real property, as a result of the acquisition of such real property, in whole or in part, or as the result of the written order of the acquiring agency to vacate real property, for a program or project undertaken by a taking agency; and solely for the purposes of sections 4 a. and b. and section 7 of this act, as a result of the acquisition of or as the result of the written order of the acquiring agency to vacate other real property, on which such person conducts a business or farm operation, for such program or project.
and N.J.S.A. 20:4-14 of the same act further provides:
A person who moves or discontinues his business or moves other personal property, or moves from his dwelling on or after the effective date of this act as the direct result of code enforcement activities, or a program of rehabilitation of buildings conducted pursuant to a governmental ...