Is Chris Christie doing enough to help residents of New Jersey stave off foreclosure? A new report from WABC's Jim Hoffer suggests the answer might be "no."
In 2011, New Jersey accepted $300 million in federal money to start the Homekeeper Program, which would, as its website advertises, promote "neighborhood stability in New Jersey communities by providing financial assistance to eligible homeowners in danger of foreclosure."
New Jersey currently suffers the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. However, Hoffer reports that more than a year after the Homekeeper Program was launched, the state has doled out only $4 million, of $300 million available, to 498 families -- while nearly 2,000 applicants have been denied.
During a press conference Monday in Long Branch, NJ, Hoffer clashed with Christie over the program's inaction. The governor claimed that more funds hadn't already been allocated because of a court-imposed moratorium on foreclosures. "Our policies were put on hold, waiting to see what the courts were ultimately going to do on foreclosures," Christie said. "And that's why we haven't moved any more quickly than we have already."
Hoffer, however, disputed the legitimacy of that claim: "The moratorium did not stop other states from helping families already facing foreclosure."
Richard Constable III, appointed by Gov. Christie to head New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs, acknowledged to the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month that the Homekeeper Program had been slow to carry out its mandate,, though he did not mention a moratorium as a reason for the sluggish rollout. "I took a hard look at this program, and I didn't like the results that I saw," he said.
Meanwhile, many applicants remain in limbo. Brenda Klein, who was interviewed by WABC, says that she waited a full year between submitting her request for foreclosure assistance, and receiving an unsatisfying answer from the New Jersey government--that she was no longer eligible because she'd fallen too far behind on her payments.
"We weren't the ones that took the time to make the [back payments] build up," she said. "If you'd taken a month, maybe two, we would have qualified."