Housing Program Helps Families Save Homes

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Photo Credit: Colleen Lane

STATE – In the last six months, 325 families in danger of losing their homes have walked through the doors of the Housing Assistance Recovery Program.

And because of the skilled housing counselors, 60 percent or 195 of those families’ homes were saved.

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But Jesse Crawford, director of the Housing Assistance and Recovery Program (HARP), which is a state-certified housing counseling program that supports homeowners and tenants threatened by foreclosure, said the numbers would be higher if families wouldn’t wait until the last minute to get help.

“Eight percent of folks come in when they’re already in foreclosure and some come in after the sheriff has already scheduled the sale, so we do what we can to stop the sale,” he said.

Crawford said the right time to contact HARP, which is an affiliate of the Central Jersey Community Development Corporation (CJCDC), is before a homeowner gets behind on his or her payments.

HARP counselors use a number of options to work to save homes, from loan modifications, where they work with the bank that owns the loan to restructure the payments, to mediation, where they have to go to court to save the home.

And there are still benefits when the counselor cannot save the home.

“We can’t help everybody, but we open their eyes to what they can afford,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the amount of his staff’s caseload hasn’t changed in the last year, but they are more focused on mitigation and modifications, rather than acquisitions. In previous years, the state allocated money for organizations like HARP to purchase homes from those in danger of losing them and the homeowner would make their mortgage payment, which would be lower, to the organization rather than the bank. But those funds have dried up.

“Now, we help them find rentals,” he said.

HARP works closely with CDC Properties, Inc., which purchases, rehabs, sales and/or rents homes. The homes are sold and rented below market rate, said Ann Young, director of CDC Properties, which is also an affiliate of the CJCDC.

“We’re working to make homes available to those in need, whether that’s people in foreclosure, first-time homebuyers or people looking to lease to own,” Young said.

CDC Properties has acquired three properties this year in Elizabeth and Newark. Two were donated and one was purchased.

Crawford said there are a lot of organizations available to people in or about to go into foreclosure, but he stressed that legitimate services are free.

“Seek a certified HUD (Housing and Urban Development) counseling center and do not pay anyone for their services when they should be free,” he said.

Central Jersey Community Development Corporation (CJCDC), formerly known as First Baptist Community Development Corporation (FBCDC), is one of New Jersey’s most comprehensive and holistically-run community development organizations. Founded in 1992 by Rev. DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., Ph.D., and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-sectarian organization, the CJCDC has a long history of helping vulnerable communities in New Jersey transition from social and economically warped – zones to neighborhoods that now project economic growth, sustainability, and empowerment of its residents.

For more information about the Central Jersey Community Development Corporation, visit http://www.cjcdc.org/.


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