Tag Archive: housing

Affordable Housing Reform

On Monday morning at 10 a.m., the Senate Economic Growth committee is considering legislation that would change our affordable housing laws.  Wealthy suburban municipalities are driving much of this effort and are doing what they have always done – working so that they can welcome only the rich into their towns while leaving many working folks and the poor to live in towns where there are few jobs and frequently underachieving schools.  

Menendez assumes subcommittee chairmanship

Onwards and upwards, I say, as Senator Bob Menendez starts his chairmanship of the Housing, Transportation and Community Development Subcommittee in the Senate Banking Committee.  

Here’s Menendez’s statement:

“With this new responsibility, I will be able to more directly help effect change on some major economic issues that impact the lives of New Jersey families on a daily basis. The housing crisis is the root of our economic struggles. It continues to affect families who lose their homes as well as their neighbors who face plummeting property values and begin to worry about their own financial situation. I’m going to work closely with President Obama to deliver real economic security to families who are worried about how they can continue to afford their mortgage payments.

“This subcommittee also oversees transportation issues, especially mass transit. New Jerseyans rely heavily on mass transit to get to work and school, and they know how it useful can be to cut down on energy costs and commute times. I believe that we should be doing everything we can to support mass transit in our state and around the country to help people reduce their expenses and break our reliance on foreign oil.”

This is his second subcommittee chairmanship, having taken over foreign assistance last Congress.


Blackout and call volume overload Foreclosure hotline

There are alot of people who need help with making the payment on their home during the current economic difficulties. Unfortunately, people trying to get help last Friday by calling the Statewide foreclosure hotline encountered some difficulties:

A statewide foreclosure prevention hotline that began Friday has been unable to handle the overload of calls, said David Wald, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office.

The response has been pretty phenomenal,” he said.

Melville D. Miller Jr., president and general counsel of Legal Services of New Jersey, which runs the hotline, said a gas main break near his Edison-based office Friday required a powering down of the building, resulting in a scrambling of computer servers handling the calls.

Even with no gas main break, however, the system still would not have been able to handle the volume, he said. He noted that by 2 p.m. yesterday, the hotline’s three dozen staffers had received 6,000 calls.

The State has also been trying to take action to help stabilize the NJ housing market.  The Governor recently signed legislation aimed at providing some assistance:

The Mortgage Stabilization Program will allow homeowners to apply for loans of up to $25,000 to reduce mortgage payments to affordable levels. The program is limited to homeowners below income limits that vary according to county.

The Housing Assistance and Recovery Program will help homeowners facing imminent foreclosure to stay in their homes while paying rent until they are able to buy back their homes.

The state has allocated $25 million for the mortgage program and $15 million for the recovery program, drawing the money from a fund intended to reduce long-term debt.

Overall, the state hopes to stave off at least half of the 60,000 foreclosures anticipated for 2009; there were an estimated 48,000 in 2008.

Here’s a video summary from the bill signing:

With all the action taken, it still looks like things may get worse before they get better.  We are still waiting for the adjustable mortgages to reset early this summer. That says nothing about the families who were hanging onto their homes through the holidays barely making payments.  We still have a great deal of work ahead.

Stats of the Day: Foreclosures

People continue to struggle to stay in their homes:

In September, one in every 453 homes in the state received a filing — either a default notice, a scheduled sheriff’s auction or a bank repossession, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based data tracking firm. The rate for the United States was one in 475 households.

U.S. foreclosure filings for the three months ending Sept. 30 rose a whopping 71 percent, year over year. During the same period, however, N.J. filings climbed 95 percent.

It really is staggering to see the increases in foreclosures with each passing month.  It’s also difficult to see the trend reversing in the near future.  

Anti-immigrant measure fails in Bound Brook

In early 2004, the US Department of Justice sued the borough of Bound Brook for engaging in systematic housing discrimination against Hispanics. The borough and the Justice Department settled the lawsuit out of court shortly thereafter; the settlement required the borough to pay a $30,000 fine and up to $425,000 in damages to victims of discrimination and to implement several policy and administrative measures to ensure future compliance with the Fair Housing Act. City officials’ discriminatory housing practices cost the average Bound Brook family $185.

Yet one Bound Brook councilman still hasn’t given up trying to drive as many Hispanics out of the Borough as he can. Yesterday, Republican Council President Jim Lefkowitz introduced a measure which would require renters to prove to their landlords that they are not illegal immigrants. Fortunately for residents Bound Brook, Lefkowitz’s proposal didn’t get very far. The borough’s Republican Mayor, Carey Pilato, opposes the ordinance, making it impossible for Lefkowitz to pass it without support from at least one Democrat on the evenly divided council.

Bound Brook voters will have a great chance to dump Lefkowitz this fall. Lefkowitz and fellow Republican Margaret Lyons will face Democrats Jean Mangino and Lorraine Call for two borough council seats, including one open seat, this fall. Incumbent Republican Paul Hasting is resigning today and will not be running for re-election. If Democrats succeed in taking just one of the two seats, they will hold a veto-proof 4-2 majority on the borough council.

Blue Jersey interviews Speaker Roberts

When Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts reached out to Blue Jersey to help get the word out about his fair housing initiative, he did so because some problems require progressive solutions.  And New Jersey’s housing policy is way up on the list.

It’s not the sexiest topic in the world, but the alternative is nothing short of racial segregation in this state.  So have a peek and please call your reps and weigh in on bill A-500.

“The Straight Skinny” on Mortgage Foreclosures from Jay Lassiter

Jay happened to catch Assemblyman Neil Cohen on his way to chair an emergency committee meeting on sub-prime lending.  “The situation is in crisis, close to a meltdown,” Cohen said, “and the ramifications are truly extra-ordinary.  The consequences have impacts for future borrowers as well as those who are currently under contract.”

The idea is to perhaps emulate a recent move in Ohio to assist homeowners in moving out of the sub-prime market and enact a 180 day moratorium on foreclosures to allow the Assembly time to investigate the matter and act on it. 

A Fading Dream in Jersey

Last month, I made a few references to the spiking mortage failure rate.  I’d like to point out that Herb Jackson has the latest rates in North Jersey – and they aren’t good.

This is a leading indicator for the impending collapse of the Bush economy – aka “borrow and spend to stave off terrorism”.  Fueled by low interest rates, millions of Americans have made poor decisions to refinance their mortgage – often “monetizing”, or cashing in their equity for a larger loan.  Millions of other Americans have been lured into buying more house than they can afford through “creative financing” and “sub-prime loans” that jettison traditional (read: commonsense) limitations on loan applications.