From the Record:
Once criticized as ineffective, the state’s main foreclosure-prevention effort has improved its performance and is now helping 250 troubled homeowners each month, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno announced Tuesday.
The program, called N.J. HomeKeeper, drew sharp criticism last year from lawmakers and housing advocates, who said that it was failing to serve enough homeowners. From its inception in May 2011 to June 2012, it had spent less than 10 percent of its $300-million, federally funded budget, and had helped only about 500 homeowners.
Even the department that ran the program, the state Department of Community Affairs, acknowledged its shortcomings, and took steps to make HomeKeeper more effective. Since last fall, the department has increased staffing, expanded eligibility for homeowners, and done more to publicize the program.
As a result, Guadagno said Tuesday, the HomeKeeper program has now committed nearly $96 million in assistance to more than 2,300 homeowners since May 2011.
“While it is gratifying to see our hard work result in more families staying in their homes, we recognize there are still more people in need of assistance,” Guadagno said in a statement.
Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, who had criticized HomeKeeper’s failings, praised Constable Tuesday for “putting the program on the right track.” But Schaer also said more needs to be done, especially in light of economic stresses such as superstorm Sandy and continued high unemployment in the state.
“The question we need to ask ourselves, given the thousands of people in foreclosure, is whether 250 people a month is enough?” Schaer said. “That 250 figure should be 500.”
Under HomeKeeper, homeowners at risk of foreclosure because of under- or unemployment can get a zero-interest loan of up to $48,000. The loan can be forgiven if the homeowner stays in the house for 10 years.