Vailsburg Leader

Orange Launches Neighborhood Stabilization And Recovery Plan

Help Available From City for Residents Facing Foreclosure

Vailsburg Leader / — Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orange is one of 38 municipalities across the state in the midst of a mortgage and housing crisis. Like our urban neighbors, East Orange, Irvington and Newark, unprecedented numbers of property owners face foreclosure. Increasingly, homes are falling under the ownership of banks, which are poorly equipped to maintain, restore or find purchasers for them. The problem puts families in jeopardy and threatens the City's tax base, property values and quality of life.

Public forum provided answers on foreclosures

On Wednesday, January Mth, Mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr. held the second in a series of monthly public forums. Coming in the midst of a foreclosure crisis brought on by the worst economic conditions since the great depression, the forum focused on the city's strategies to help property owners avoid losing their homes and to stabilize neighborhoods endangered by foreclosures.

At the forum, residents had the opportunity to learn about programs to help them avert foreclosure, get help and advice from the City on how to save their homes, and learn about what the City is doing to stabilize neighborhoods.

Mayor Hawkins, Acting Director of Planning and Economic Development Valerie Jackson and Deputy Director of Planning and Economic Development Christopher Mobley discussed the city program and answered questions on foreclosure prevention and neighborhood stabilization.

Those attending also heard presentations by E. Michael Taylor, Director of Housing and Community Development for Essex County; Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director, New Jersey Citizen Action; and Stephone Mickler, Loan Officer with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. Those unable to attend, were able to watch the forum on Channel 35.

How we are preventing foreclosures and helping neighborhoods

For the past few months, the Orange Department of Planning and Economic Development has been working to understand the magnitude ofthe housing problem in Orange, identify resources available to homeowners and develop a comprehensive course of action.

We are seeking funds from the County of Essex Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME and NJ Department of Community Affairs Neighborhood Stabilization Program to implement programs and activities that will stabilize our neighborhoods and keep people in their homes.

The City is developing a database of all bankowned and vacant properties and will monitor pre-foreclosure filings and foreclosures. We are partnering with other government, non-profit and private entities to provide resources to assist homeowners in keeping their homes.

Help for residents

We are connecting residents with mortgage telephone hotlines, housing and credit counseling agencies, anti-predatory lending programs, and foreclosure mediation services. We are also providing information about workshops available to homeowners.

Finally, city employees will be walking door to door in Orange's neighborhoods to meet with residents and discuss the help available to them.

Help for neighborhoods

In all neighborhoods, we will determine whether a property should be rehabilitated or demolished. Where there are properties that can be rehabilitated, the City will work to ensure the properties become occupied. We will assist in the acquisition of bank-owned properties at a discount, their rehabilitation, and securing purchasers for the properties.

In neighborhoods where there are clusters of vacant and blighted properties, the City will try to assist a single developer/builder to provide replacement homes or apartments. In neighborhoods where the housing stock has been significantly impacted by vacant and blighted properties, the City will seek to demolish properties and create community parks or gardens until the housing market is stabilized.

New state program

Under a new law, New Jersey will help owners in immediate danger of foreclosure by offering no monthly payment second mortgage loans. The money will be paid back when the home is sold.

A second program will help homeowners who face imminent foreclosure stay in their home while paying affordable rent until the homeowner is able to buy back the property. Certain nonprofit and public entities will make leasepurchase agreements with existing homeowners who meet program requirements.

Also the State Administrative Office ofthe Courts will now provide mediation between homeowners and creditors to modify mortgages and enable the borrower to remain in the home with an affordable monthly mortgage payment.

For Help, Answers or Additional Information:

Contact Wendy Brown, Housing Coordinator. 973-266-4062

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