Democrats Blast Administration Of Program To Help NJ Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (left) and Robert Menendez (right)

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg (left) and Robert Menendez (right)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg are among the latest to criticize New Jersey’s administration of a program intended to help homeowners who lost their jobs to avoid foreclosure.

In a letter to the Director of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency regarding their poor performance on behalf of homeowners, the Menendez and Lautenberg noted that after two years – and increasing foreclosures — the State is dead last in the nation in implementation and called for a series of immediate measures to improve results.

“We are disappointed that despite the fact that you have had two years to implement this program and we have sent multiple letters requesting quick action, New Jersey is still dead last in the nation in implementing this program,” the Senators wrote. “In a recent study, New Jersey was found to have the second highest percentage of foreclosure inventory in the United States at 5.7%, behind only Florida. Given that fact, it is unconscionable that approximately $270 million in federal funds has been sitting unspent for two years and that New Jersey is last in the nation among the states in distributing that money.”

Menendez and Lautenberg called for the state to immediately take three specific actions:

  • Speed up hiring and action on applications or give the federal funds to non-profit organizations that have the ability deliver the urgent help that New Jersey homeowners need.
  • Make immediately available on their website the new criteria for temporary payment help. The state finally agreed to relax criteria, which, according to an ABC news report, have been so restrictive that nearly 2 out of 3 applications were rejected. Although the new criteria would enable more homeowners to be accepted, the state has not made that available to the public on the program website.
  • Review all rejected applicants against new eligibility criteria and immediately accept those into the program who would now meet those criteria.

Yesterday, the chairman of two key state Assembly committees announced plans to call a joint hearing to examine the Christie administration’s failure to help more families facing foreclosure. Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jerry Green, chair of the Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee, and Assembly Deputy Speaker Gary Schaer, chair of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, did not immediately announce details of the hearing.

“We need to get answers and get this program moving for the benefit of struggling New Jersey families,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Helping families affected by the Great Recession must be among the highest priorities of the General Assembly. I remain concerned about Gov. Christie’s refusal to answer questions about his administration’s slow action in helping as many affected homeowners as possible.”

“Gov. Christie may not want to be held accountable for failing to help New Jersey families facing foreclosure, but he cannot hide from his failure to help New Jersey families at risk of losing their homes,” said Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “The administration’s approach is clearly not working. While Gov. Christie may want to avoid the subject, New Jersey’s middle-class and poor deserve answers and help.”

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