The Star-Ledger

State Helps Thousands To Remain In Homes

The Star-Ledger — Friday, October 9, 2009

By Sean Sposito / The Star-Ledger

Homeowners facing foreclosure are catching a break on a state program aimed at lowering their monthly payments.

More than 2,600 New Jerseyans have gotten counseling through the state’s Foreclosure Mediation Program, according to a statement from Gov. Jon S. Corzine. About 1,450 cases have been completed. About half of those represented by the completed cases have been able to stay in their homes.

"[This] program really is setting the pattern for the country on mortgage modification," Corzine told The Star-Ledger in a question-and-answer session earlier this month. "It is picking up steam."

The state’s mediation aid started last year in Middlesex County and went statewide in January.

The state’s announcement came a day after the Obama administration said 500,000 homeowners nationwide have had their loans modified under the federal Making Home Affordable program. A government report released yesterday, however, questioned whether the administration would reach its objective of preventing 3 million to 4 million foreclosures, much less keep many of those who modified their mortgages from ultimately losing their homes.

The number of state foreclosures dropped in September in part due to the mediation program, according to the state release.There were 4,386 foreclosures in September. That figure is about 21 percent less than the August’s 5,536 foreclosures.

A state Foreclosure Mediation Hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week at (888) 989-5277.

But even with all these resources some are still finding it hard to get help, said Susan Zellman, executive director of the Housing Partnership for Morris County. "I find that people can’t figure out where to go," she said, adding her group is holding a foreclosure education workshop Nov. 12 at the Denville Municipal Building.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, said some federal and state program’s don’t cast a wide enough net.

Salowe-Kaye, whose organization is one of the groups that works on mortgage mediations in the state, said, "There are going to be so many people that do not qualify for any of these programs that there needs to be an organized way to put all these people back on their feet."

Salowe-Kaye said her group receives about 120 new calls a week from homeowners seeking help. Three years ago, before the housing crisis, she said, her nonprofit organization was dealing with only 300 "crisis cases." This year there are more than a 1,000.

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