Clock is Ticking on Mortgage Relief Program for Sandy Survivors
If a bill getting fast-tracked in Trenton fails to receive Gov. Phil Murphy's signature by July 1, many homeowners impacted by 2012's Superstorm Sandy will likely fall quickly into the foreclosure process, according to advocates close to the issue.
The full state Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon on legislation that would extend a mortgage relief program for certain impacted homeowners. The program, which temporarily suspends mortgage and interest payments for individuals still in recovery mode, is currently slated to close on July 1 of this year.
"We're going on seven years and almost 1,000 families are still not home, that we know of," said Jody Stewart, community organizer with New Jersey Organizing Project, a grassroots organization formed in 2014 by Sandy survivors.
"Remember, these people are also paying rent," Stewart said. "And coming up with the finances just to elevate or build your new home is astronomical, and that's not including if you throw other aspects into it, like contractor fraud."
The bill in question extends a participant's mortgage forbearance to July 1, 2022, or one year following the issuance of a certificate of occupancy. It would not reopen the application process for the program.
"This legislation will help protect storm victims from losign their homes while they are trying to restore them," said bill sponsor Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic, when the measure was approved by the full Assembly in late March.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee advanced the measure on June 10. If approved by the full Senate on Thursday, the bill will likely be signed into law just before the deadline.
"While the Governor's Office does not comment on pending legislation, victims of Superstorm Sandy have suffered enough. Governor Murphy believes that it is critically important that we do everything we can to keep these folks in their homes," said spokesman Matthew Saidel.
The New Jersey Bankers Association is on the record as an opponent of the bill. The association had not responded to a request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.