Lesniak bill would provide credit to towns transferring foreclosed properties to occupied housing

TRENTON – State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, introduced a bill today that would establish a central agency under the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) to use funds from the State Affordable Housing Trust Fund to purchase and deed-restrict foreclosed properties for affordable housing.

“Vacant and boarded up homes are a blight on neighborhoods, an invitation to vandalism and crime and a drag on property values and our economic recovery,” Lesniak said at a press conference. “Families evicted from these homes still need affordable places to live.

“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated the overhang of foreclosed properties is contributiing to the slow rate of expansion of our economy, places downward pressure on housing prices and exacerbates the loss in housing wealth.”

Lesniak said his legislation would turn 10,000 foreclosed homes into 10,000 affordable homes.

But it’s not just an affordable housing program, the senator noted.

The corporation would give municipalities 45 days to determine if they would want foreclosed properties. If not, the corporation would go to a market rate bulk sale.

“It’s as simple as that,” said the veteran senator.

S1566 – to be considered Thursday by the Senate Economic Growth Committee – is co-sponsored by state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), and, in the lower house, by Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22).

“Last year, we tried – and we’re going to be successful in dealing with affordable housing,” said Green, who called foreclosure one of the most serious challenges in the state.

“The bottom line is we are in the position now to keep people in their homes,” the assemblyman added. “This is a good start in dealing with the housing crisis.  I don’t want to just turn this over to the banks. If we all work together, we’re going to get some good results.”

Lesniak said his legislation would work in conjunction with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) proposed anti-foreclosure legislation at the federal level.

“Our legislation deals with unoccupied homes, his prevents foreclosed homes from entering into the boarded up stage,” said the veteran state senator.

“Bob welcomed the idea of working with you,” Green told Lesniak.

The assemblyman met with Menendez last week.

“Bob made it very clear he is making sure from Washington to Trenton that we are all on the same page,” Green said.

Lesniak bill would provide credit to towns transferring foreclosed properties to occupied housing