Housing Comm. releases bills dealing with mortgages, tax liens, more

TRENTON – The Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee released bills Thursday dealing with county-sold properties, tax liens and troubled mortgage-holders.

A3915: This would set up a pilot program to help homeowners with their mortgages.

It passed 4-0-2 with the Republican members abstaining, applauding the intent but expressing some concerns.

The idea would be to allow a homeowner in default of their mortgage to lower the remaining principal to an amount more in line with current market realities in exchange for conveying an equity share of the property to the agency involved in the pilot program.

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll questioned whether the taxpayers “would eat the consequences” if a person didn’t meet their obligations under this program.

Sponsor Assemblyman Troy Singleton said that it is not a scenario in which a person would be able to walk away from their obligations. “This is an innovative approach to keep folks in their homes,” he said.

The Housing Mortgage Finance Agency issued “talking points’’ – which Singleton said he had seen only 20 minutes before the hearing – expressing concerns about the bill.

Carroll had said that the program will work fine if the value goes up, but if conditions worsen, the state could be on the hook.

A4031: This requires registration of vacant and abandoned properties with municipalities and provides enforcement tools related to their maintenance. It advanced 5-0-1 with Michael Patrick Carroll abstaining.

A3449: This would exempt counties from some rules when selling property to local government entities, such as school districts.

Normally, the county would have to prepare an environmental impact assessment and make it available to the public.

This bill would provide an exception to such rules if the purchaser is a school district, town or other entity composed of elected officials.

It advanced 6-0.

A3570: This would give towns greater control over tax lien sales.

If given the opportunity to take control of tax liens under favorable conditions, municipalities could benefit from interest, penalties, and the opportunity to foreclose on liens not redeemed.  Those municipalities could benefit significantly as a result, both in terms of revenue generation and urban revitalization, according to the proposal. It was released 5-1 with Michael Patrick Carroll in opposition.

The Housing Community Development Network of New Jersey supported the bill as a tool for towns to redevelop communities. 

Trenton Council Member Verlina Reynolds-Jackson said abandoned properties, for one thing, are directly related to crime, and supported the bill as a means to address such quality of life issues.

Michael Patrick Carroll questioned the sometimes lengthy period of time involved; it can last well over a year in some cases.

“This is not a particularly blunt instrument’’ to get the desired results in a timely fashion, he said. “I can’t support more borrowing,’’ he said as well.

ACR193: This memorializes Congress to support efforts to increase allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits in declared Hurricane Sandy disaster areas. It passed 6-0.

Housing Comm. releases bills dealing with mortgages, tax liens, more