NJ Gov Signs Anti-Foreclosure Measure

Newsday — Friday, January 9, 2009

Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation Friday that provides $40 million for two programs aimed at keeping financially distressed homeowners from losing their homes to foreclosure.

The bills are part of a package of legislation proposed by Corzine in October to help New Jerseyans through what he called "the single worst economic challenge this country has faced in the last 150 years, except the Depression. ... We are proactively putting in place actions on housing stabilization that are unequaled across the country as far as I could see."

Some of the state's leading housing advocates were on hand as Corzine signed the bill, which allocates $25 million to a program that will help homeowners refinance first mortgages in imminent danger of foreclosure. Another $15 million will go toward a program that allows those who have been foreclosed upon to remain in their homes as tenants while saving to buy back their homes.

Corzine said the money was redirected from other programs.

"New Jersey's deepening mortgage crisis makes it imperative that we provide direct assistance to ensure families can stay in their homes and out of foreclosure," said Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Ewing.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of the New Jersey Citizen Action advocacy group, applauded the legislation, but said there is much more to be done as the housing crisis is expected to worsen in the months ahead.

She said foreclosures can affect not only families who are forced from their homes, but neighborhoods — which can become blighted — and communities.

The governor acknowledged the amount of money appropriated for the two programs isn't enough to solve the problem. But he hopes that if some federal bailout money was redirected to foreclosure prevention and neighborhood recovery efforts, more people could be helped.

"We're putting about $60 million into this," Corzine said of the legislation signed Friday, and a mortgage counseling program also under way. "This is a much bigger problem."

Later Friday, Corzine attended the rollout of a state-supported foreclosure mediation program that was started as a pilot project in Middlesex County and is now being expanded statewide.

Attorney General Anne Milgram said as many as 16,600 New Jersey homeowners may participate in the mediation program this year, and as many as 60,000 New Jersey homeowners may go through foreclosure this year.

The program gives eligible homeowners access to housing counselors, lawyers and court-trained mediators who may help those in foreclosure remain in their homes.

Speaking of the combined anti-foreclosure efforts undertaken in New Jersey, Corzine said" "We have actually in this housing area, I think, created a template that could easily be assimilated into the bailout program for financial institutions."

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