Published May 31, 2012
Affordable housing advocates accuse Governor Chris Christie of diverting $75 million of a federal foreclosure settlement to the general fund to help balance the state budget.
At a press conference at the State House in Trenton, more than 50 organizations urged the governor to make foreclosure a state budget priority by using settlement dollars for foreclosure counseling, affordable home creation, and addressing the overabundance of vacant or abandoned foreclosed properties in neighborhoods across New Jersey.
“The governor is taking money that should be used to support efforts to mitigate and reverse the economic damage caused by Wall Street,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive direct of NJCA. “Instead, he is dumping the $75 million dollars into a state budget that provides tax breaks to the rich and loop holes for corporations while at the same time cutting essential programs and services for 99% of New Jerseyans.”
The $75 million New Jersey is receiving is part of a $25 billion dollar agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage services to end federal and state probes into abusive foreclosure practices. Advocates and legislators point to reports from the Mortgage Bankers Association that show foreclosure rates in New Jersey are on the rise, bucking the national trend, as cause to prioritize the issue in the state budget.
“Governor Christie has several priorities in his state budget but unfortunately, New Jersey residents and communities suffering from the foreclosure crisis do not appear to be among them,” said Staci Berger, “We have heard a lot about the ‘need’ for a tax cut for residents making as much as $400,000. Yet, we have heard nothing about helping families keep their homes or providing tools for towns to tackle their vacant, foreclosed property problems.”
“Borrowing to pay for a tax cut is not just irresponsible, it’s reckless,” said Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20).
At a press conference at the State House later in the day, Governor Christie said the groups are wrong.
“In this year’s budget we are going to use $371 million, $75 million of which comes from this federal settlement, to deal with housing problems, homelessness issues and affordable housing concerns for the people of this state.”
The groups delivered a letter to Christie urging him to reconsider where the money is going and to make foreclosure prevention a top priority.