Gov. Phil Murphy today signed a bipartisan legislative package into law that will help New Jerseyans struggling with the state’s highest-in-the-nation foreclosure rate. The new laws will assist homeowners facing the prospect of foreclosure and pave the way for community revival by addressing blight. Many of the measures were recommended in a September 2018 report by the Special Committee on Residential Foreclosures, which was created by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.
“The foreclosure crisis has hurt our economy and jeopardized economic security of too many New Jersey families,” said Governor Murphy. “Our communities cannot succeed while vacant or foreclosed homes sit empty or while families live in limbo. I am proud to sign these bills into law today and get New Jersey closer to ending the foreclosure crisis.”
Among the bills, Governor Murphy signed A664, which codifies the Judiciary’s Foreclosure Mediation Program into law, creating a long-term, permanent program that will not only increase the number of people entering mediation, but also ensure that homeowners receive housing counseling assistance to help provide them with the best possible outcomes in the foreclosure process.
“The foreclosure crisis hit the families of Atlantic County harder than almost any county in the nation. These bills offer a better path for the region and hope for families in despair,” said Special Counsel Jim Johnson. “It’s a vital and important step forward.”
“Foreclosure can take an emotional and financial toll on homeowners and their families. These bills bolster our efforts to help keep families in their homes and neighborhoods intact,” said New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) Executive Director Charles A. Richman. “We know housing counseling works. Counseled homeowners are nearly three times as likely to have their loans modified, and 70 percent more likely to remain current after modification. That why we have heavily invested our efforts on working to get families the counseling help they need.”
The Governor signed the following nine bills into law:
“Foreclosures are tragic situations for New Jersey families that can also create public safety as well as quality of life issues for surrounding communities,” said Senator Steve Oroho, sponsor of the bill package. “Doing our part to reduce the foreclosure rate statewide will protect families, make neighborhoods safer, and provide children the stability they need both at home and at school. I am proud Governor Murphy signed our bipartisan bill package into law. Stable homes will lead to happier households and better neighborhoods throughout our state.”
“We are all aware that the surge in foreclosed properties is a significant factor that hinders more sustained economic growth in our state,” said Senator Troy Singleton. “Solving the foreclosure issue by preventing homeowners from initially falling into this process will help to increase property values and stabilize our communities, while improving our state’s overall economic outlook. This issue is not new. However, the comprehensive approach outlined in these bipartisan laws is unprecedented in our state. They will build upon the continued reduction in pending foreclosure cases and shorten the timeline to adjudicate these cases. This is a reflection of the work undertaken by every branch of our state government.”
“Sadly, for too long our state has led the nation in foreclosures, with 70,000 properties going through the process in 2017 alone. Recognizing this problem, Chief Justice Rabner impaneled a blue ribbon committee encompassing the public, private and non-profit sectors to craft solutions, both legislative and regulatory, that were both fair and responsible to our state’s residents and housing economy. I was privileged to serve and be a part of the solution,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “The nine bills signed into law today are the first of many steps we’ll take to address foreclosure process concerns in the state. More efficiency and ensuring fairness in the current system protects the interests of our homeowners, our neighborhoods and communities.”
“These new laws will help us take a comprehensive approach in dealing with foreclosed homes in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly. “Foreclosed properties that sit in neighborhoods for years without being maintained are also a major problem, because these homes become eyesores to the community and drive property values down. As chair of the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, I will continue to work with Speaker Coughlin and our caucus to help solve the foreclosure crisis in New Jersey.”
Advocates also expressed support for the measures.
“We thank Governor Murphy and the Legislature for providing valuable tools to address our state’s relentless foreclosure crisis,” said Staci Berger, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ. “Residents and neighborhoods have suffered needlessly because the prior Administration failed to take important steps like these. During that time, residents and communities of color were disproportionately impacted by the crisis, losing so much of their housing equity. As NJ’s largest HUD housing counseling intermediary, the Network is thrilled that New Jersey’s leaders are now working with us and our members to keep people in their homes and helping to protect the single largest investment working families can make.”
“Thanks to the leadership of both Governor Murphy and the legislators who sponsored this bill package, New Jersey is one step close to putting the foreclosure crisis behind us,” said Winn Khuong, Executive Director of Action Together New Jersey. “Governor Murphy’s action today puts New Jersey on a path to renewing our communities, something that will change the lives of so many. We are pleased to see New Jersey’s leaders moving the state in the right direction.”
“We applaud Governor Murphy and all of the legislators on the passage of this package of bills,” said Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. “Taken together, these bills will allow for a more transparent and fairer process for people facing default and will help alleviate New Jersey’s persistent foreclosure crisis. Particularly, the codification and funding of the Foreclosure Mediation Program will allow families receive to counseling and mediation to find a resolution to be able to stay in their homes.”
“A decade after the financial crisis, New Jersey continues to lead the nation in foreclosures,” said Kevin Walsh, Executive Director of Fair Share Housing Center. “This legislative package will provide needed relief by increasing protections for homeowners and holding lenders accountable. We’d like to thank Governor Murphy and legislative leaders, including Senator Singleton, for pushing through proposals designed to protect working families.”
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