Foreclosure bedevils New Jersey. The state has some 20,000 homes in some stage of the process. It also has the No. 1 foreclosure rate in the nation, more than double the national rate.
Gov. Phil Murphy visited hard-hit Atlantic City to sign a nine-bill package designed to alleviate the problem.
“New Jersey continues to grapple with the nation’s highest levels of foreclosure. Roughly one in every 1,000 homes across our state is in some phase of the foreclosure process. Atlantic City remains the hardest-hit metropolitan area of the entire country. Trenton ranks as number two. If there’s a top-two list you don’t want to be on, this is one of them,” Murphy said.
The bills make it easier to sign up for the judiciary’s loan mediation program. Lenders must notify delinquent homeowners of their rights to mediation and they must speed up the time for resale of a foreclosed home, so a neighborhood or block doesn’t sit blighted for months on end.
“We must give both families and homes a second chance, so both can contribute to their communities’ revival and long-term stability,” said Murphy.
‘Faster and fairer’
“The foreclosure process in New Jersey can be among the lowest in the United States. These bills will make it faster and fairer,” said special counsel Jim Johnson.
“Homeowner participation early in the process, both in terms of mediation through the court system and through counseling, will absolutely save homeowners their home,” said Charles Richman, executive director of New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
The bills had bipartisan backing.
“Every now and then housing policy can become partisan, but I think each of us have recognized that the grip of foreclosures and what they do to our communities, how they stagnate our ability to grow our economy. In a true community way of life that we would all cherish, everyone came together to find a solution to try to move this forward,” said Sen. Troy Singleton.
“This law will require, as mentioned, that people in foreclosure be notified that they are entitled to free, professional help from fully trained housing counselors,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey.
The easy stuff?
Murphy continues to rack up legislative accomplishments, though some critics say he’s mainly doing the easy stuff. It’s a point, not surprisingly, that he takes issue with.
“Boy, it didn’t feel easy to me. Particularly something like this. This is nine bills. And Troy Singleton said it was in that herding-cats reality, there’s a lot of moving parts. So you won’t be surprised I don’t accept that narrative. I think we’ve moved a lot of mountains and today’s a great day, particularly for folks struggling to hold onto their homes,” Murphy said.
“This package of bills has been in the Legislature for a while, and it’s a bipartisan bill. We think it’s really important and not at all low-hanging fruit, that it’s critical to helping preserve our neighborhoods and helping our families stay in their homes,” said Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.
The next step? Implementation.