Bill to transform foreclosed properties amended, released

TRENTON – The Senate Economic Growth Committee released a bill that would help transform foreclosed properties into affordable housing.

S2157 was released by a vote of 3-2 along party lines. This bill in a sense is a companion bill to S2156 that was cleared earlier by the committee. That bill would speed up foreclosures of abandoned sites.

This bill originally would have established the New Jersey Foreclosure Relief Corporation as a temporary entity for the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing.

The corporation would have ceased its operations on Dec. 31, 2017. On that date, any assets, properties, or funds held by the corporation would have transferred to the Housing Mortgage Financing Agency.

However, that middle step of having a temporary agency is gone and the HMFA will be the sole agency involved.

There was Tea Party opposition to the bill, which sees this as more government intrusion that will take properties off the list of ratables.

But strong support came from the N.J. Builders Association and the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

NJBA Chief Executive Officer Tim Touhey – a former director of HMFA – and Staci Berger of the HCDN praised the bill’s intent to use private monies, not public funds, to affect a dramatic turnaround over time in the housing market.

Touhey estimated that approximately 20 percent of this bill’s investment goals would be toward affordable housing, and 80 percent would go to help market-rate housing.

And Berger said this would help “turn the foreclosure crisis into an opportunity.”

This bill was vetoed previously, Burger pointed out, and sponsor Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), Elizabeth, said that he hoped the changes, using HMFA rather than having a temporary entity, would help turn the tide and win the governor’s signature.

N.J. Bankers Association and N.J. Realtors Association also backed the bill.

The committee dealt with other bills.

A495/S79: This bill upgrades penalties for killing dogs or horses used by police from a fourth-degree to a third-degree crime. It was released unanimously.

The penalty would rise from 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine to three to five years imprisonment and a $15,000 fine.

The Assembly unanimously passed the bill 78-0 in May.

Supporters included the Sheriff’s Association of New Jersey.

Bill to transform foreclosed properties amended, released