Christie signs bill to give Sandy victims some protection against foreclosure - MaryAnn Spoto, NJ.com
TRENTON -- New Jersey homeowners facing foreclosure while they're still trying to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy now can be protected from losing their homes.
A bill signed Friday by Gov. Chris Christie gives certain homeowners affected by Sandy the potential to ward off foreclosures for up to three years while they try to recover financially from the storm.
In his signing statement, Christie indicated he wasn't completely happy with the bill (S-2300, A-333), which he said was too broadly written to include foreclosures not precipitated by Sandy.
But the signing was welcome news to members of the New Jersey Organizing Project, a grass-roots group of Sandy victims and other housing advocates who have been waiting two years for the governor to take action.
"I'm happy today," said Joe Mangino, co-founder of the project. "It's a relief for us because it's been two long years."
On the eve of the four-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, some homeowners say the state is not helping them get back in their houses
Last fall, Christie incurred the wrath of Sandy victims at an appearance in Seaside Heights where they complained many were still not home and faced financial ruin because of the state's slow process in disbursing federal Sandy aid to rebuild.
At that time, Christie said he would take another look at the foreclosure bill, but many, including Mangino, said they were skeptical Christie would sign it.
"For all the families struggling to keep their heads above water, there's hope," said Staci Berger, president and chief executive officer of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey. "Our families, friends, and neighbors deserve better than what they've been forced to endure over the last four years. Because of the hard work and dedication of our legislative leaders, Sandy survivors, and advocates, there will finally be some relief and the chance to rebuild."
The law creates a forbearance period for up to three years for Sandy victims who have either been approved for help through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program or the Low-to-Moderate Income Program or those who have received rental assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage to their primary residence.
Those approved would receive a certificate of eligibility for mortgage forbearance from the state Department of Community Affairs, allowing them to tack onto the end of their mortgage the months they missed paying during their Sandy recovery.
They would still be responsible for paying their taxes and insurance.
The forbearance period would end when one of the three following scenarios occurs first:
That includes Sandy victims who were facing foreclosure before the storm hit or whose mortgage default problems were unrelated to storm damage. Christie said he didn't want it as part of the law because he said it would cause "mountains of damage" to "our federal funding flow and our state housing market."
"I am very concerned these new requirements may adversely impact the state's recovery efforts, jeopardize federal Sandy funding, increase borrowing costs and ultimately delay Sandy-impacted residents' return to their homes," he wrote.
Calling the bill "sloppily written" and "ill conceived," Christie accused its Democratic sponsors of "politically pandering" to Sandy victims during to get re-elected.
He said that for mortgage forbearance certifications, he is directing the Community Affairs commissioner to give priority to Sandy victims whose foreclosure situations are related to their reconstruction.
"I have chosen to sign it to give Sandy victims the morsels of relief this vanity exercise of a bill offers," Christie wrote in response to the Assembly bill, sponsored by all Democrats.
Sen. Jennifer Beck, many of whose constituents in Monmouth County were hit hard by Sandy, was the only Republican sponsors of the companion bills kicking around in the in the Senate and Assembly for two years.
The new law directs the Community Affairs commissioner to notify Sandy families of their eligibility for those foreclosure protections and to post eligibility information on the department's website.
The commissioner also must notify courts and mortgage lenders of people who are eligible for those protections.
The Department of Community Affairs will be required to extend the completion deadline for projects funded through RREM and LMI, for applicants who can demonstrate the delay was the fault of their builder or because of Community Affairs' delays in approving the builder doing the work. If an application for aid under the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program (TBRA), LMI, or RREM program is denied, Community Affairs would have to provide the applicant with an explanation for the denial, and an explanation for ways to remedy the application.
MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnSpoto. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
Christie inks law to prevent foreclosure on Sandy-damaged homes - Phil Gregory, NewsWorks
Governor Christie has signed New Jersey legislation to prevent mortgage foreclosures on homes damaged more than four years ago by Superstorm Sandy.
Amanda Devecka-Rinear, who directs the New Jersey Organizing Project founded by those affected by Sandy, said Friday she is relieved the governor approved the measure.
"I am so incredibly glad that we're going to see some relief for families," she said. "I am only sad that this didn't pass even two years ago ... I know as many people as it will help, there are a number of families for whom this is too late."
Christie called the bill sloppily written, ill-conceived, and political pandering by the legislature, but said he signed it to give Sandy victims "morsels of relief."
Under the law, Sandy victims could get a temporary stay of foreclosure proceedings if they are eligible for the Reconstruction Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program or the Low- to Moderate- Income Homeowner's Rebuilding Program but haven't received funds.
Christie, who said he fears some of the requirements might delay recovery efforts and increase borrowing costs, vowed to use his executive authority to repair any damage it could cause.
Devecka-Rinear said the new law could help thousands of families.
"Every day, Sandy-impacted families have been fighting," she said. "We fought for two years for this legislation and it sounds like tomorrow we're going to have to wake up and fight to make sure that the governor doesn't limit its impact. But we're up for it, and we are encouraged."
Chris Christie signs bill to stop Sandy-related foreclosures - Press of Atlantic City
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation aimed at preventing mortgage foreclosures on houses damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Christie, a Republican, called the bill passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature “sloppily written, ill-conceived and politically pandering,” but said he was signing it Friday because it would provide help to some victims.
“We are so thrilled,” said New Jersey Organizing Project co-founder Amanda Deveker-Rinear of the legislation becoming law.
“There are thousands of families still struggling — people who are not home yet and people who are.”
NJOP, based in West Creek, Ocean County has members all over the state but mainly serves Ocean, Monmouth and Atlantic County families. It was formed to help New Jersey families recover after Sandy.
She said the law will especially help those whose homes were damaged who live outside the nine most affected counties, like those in New Gretna, Burlington County.
They could not qualify for aid through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation Program, or RREM, but can get help with their mortgages through the new law as long as they qualified for rental assistance through FEMA due to Sandy damage.
“It’s a lifeline so people can afford to stay in their homes,” she said.
She said her group will hold an informational meeting on the new law and other issues from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Atlantic County Library branch in Ventnor.
The law requires the state Department of Community Affairs to publicly report where funding tied to grant application denials goes. Christie says he is concerned the requirement could impact recovery efforts or increase borrowing costs.
Under the law, Sandy victims could get a temporary stay of foreclosure proceedings if they are eligible for certain programs but haven’t received funds.
Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, and the Governor’s Office estimates 365,000 buildings were damaged, based on the number of insurance claims.
The Fair Share Housing Center says 40,500 primary residences and 15,600 rental units sustained “severe” or “major” damage in the storm.
For Sandy victim homeowners currently in foreclosure litigation and eligible to receive relief funds, homeowners could apply for a stay of proceedings.
Staff Writer Michelle Brunetti Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Christie rips Sandy foreclosure protection bill — but signs it into law - Michael Symons, NJ 101.5
Gov. Chris Christie today signed a bill into law that creates protections against foreclosures for owners of homes still being rebuilt after damage by Superstorm Sandy, though he did so with a scathing statement that warns it could violate federal law.
Christie has vetoed earlier efforts at Sandy-related foreclosure protections but signed this version, which allows homeowners to apply to the Department of Community Affairs for a mortgage forbearance or to courts for a stay of foreclosure proceedings. But he called lawmakers selfish and accused them of political grandstanding.
“I am very concerned that these new requirements may adversely impact the state’s recovery efforts, jeopardize federal Sandy funding, increase borrowing costs, and ultimately delay Sandy-impacted residents’ return to their homes,” Christie said in a signing statement. “Some of this bill may violate federal law and negatively impact victims; most of it is a transparent, useless political exercise by candidates for re-election falsely pandering to victimized voters.”
Christie directed to DCA to establish priority in the mortgage forbearance for Sandy-affected homeowners whose homes aren’t yet fully reconstructed. He said the new law allows Sandy victims to claim mortgage relief even for default problems unrelated to storm damage.
“That is how sloppily written, ill-conceived and politically pandering this bill is from the Legislature. I have chosen to sign it to give Sandy victims the morsels of relief this vanity exercise of a bill offers,” Christie said. “I will use my executive authority to attempt to repair the mountains of damage this could cause to our federal funding flow and our state housing market.”
Under what was bill A-333, the Department of Community Affairs will have to extend the completion deadline for projects funded through the Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Elevation and Mitigation or Low to Moderate Income Homeowners Rebuilding grant for applicants who can demonstrate the delay was the fault of their builder or due to delays by the DCA in approving the builder doing the project.
Homeowners assisted through the RREM or LMI programs or who received rental assistance from FEMA as a result of damage to their primary residence could apply for mortgage forbearance. That period would end a year after a certificate of occupancy for recovery and rebuilding program work has been issued; July 1, 2019; or regarding a property in foreclosure proceedings, 10 days after a sheriff’s sale.
The law requires DCA to report where all funding associated with application denials, wait-list placements, and withdrawals has instead been allocated, going back to the start of the recovery effort, and it requires quarterly reports through 2018.
“The idea of Sandy victims facing foreclosure because of problems they did not create is asinine,” said Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro, D-Gloucester.
Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, said there are still 3,200 Sandy victims with incomplete home elevation and construction projects.
“We’ve spent two long years trying to get Sandy families protection from foreclosures and so today is a good day for us,” said Joe Mangino, a Sandy survivor and co-founder of the New Jersey Organizing Project. “Even though the governor doesn’t seem happy about signing the bill, we are happy it got signed.”
Christie also signed 11 other bills into law, including one that establishes statewide regulations for ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft. (Click here for a list.)
He also vetoed two bills, including one that would have extended the Urban Enterprise Zones in Bridgeton, Camden, Newark, Plainfield and Trenton through the end of the 2018. Those zones — where features included cutting the sales tax in half — expired at the end of December.
Christie said the UEZs were supposed to be temporary when created in the mid-1980s and that extending those five would cost the state $40 million over two years. “Thirty years of experience demonstrates that the UEZ program does not work,” he said.
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Christie, with regrets, signs Sandy foreclosure bill - Russ Zimmer, Asbury Park Press
Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday granting foreclosure protection to potentially thousands of victims of superstorm Sandy, but he did so with deep reservations.
After signing A-333, Christie released a two-page statement ripping the bill as "a transparent, useless political exercise by candidates for re-election falsely pandering to victimized voters."
"I have chosen to sign it to give Sandy victims the morsels of relief this vanity exercise of a bill offers," he wrote. "I will use my executive authority to attempt to repair the mountains of damage this could cause to our federal funding flow and our state housing market."
Christie didn't stop there.
"It is selfish of the Legislature to use its authority to play on the emotions of Sandy victims with the empty promises of this bill; as we have done for the last 4½ years, the executive branch will use our authority to provide real solutions based on facts, not emotion or political grandstanding."
Read the entire statement below.
The bill allows homeowners who are in the Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program and RREM's sister program for low- and moderate-income homeowners to petition the state Department of Community Affairs for a reprieve from foreclosure actions until as late as July 2019.
Post-Sandy, many homeowners have been thrust into bankruptcy or its brink, broken by unexpected rent payments and the mortgage on their storm-ravaged homes. Hundreds, if not thousands of Shore families, have been set back as well by insurance woes, slow-moving government programs, and shady contractors.
Christie had until Monday to make a decision on the bill, which the Legislature sent to his desk on Dec. 19.
The Governor's Office had declined to speak on what action Christie might take, but he had conditionally vetoed a previous version of the legislation, expressing concern about the role of the DCA in what has always been a judicial process.
Gov. Chris Christie in a flie photo (Photo: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)
The DCA remains central in the version he signed Friday, as does language that could potentially include 61,000 homeowners who received FEMA housing aid after the October 2012 storm. That's in addition to the 2,800 homeowners still in the construction phase of RREM.
The bank lobby, which opposed the bill, argued that adding in the FEMA population would include tens of thousands who were not as severely impacted by Sandy. Christie echoed those worries in his statement.
"As it stands now, Sandy victims who have mortgage default problems completely unrelated to storm damage can claim mortgage forbearance under this bill," he wrote. "That is how sloppily written, ill-conceived and politically pandering this bill is from the Legislature."
But Sandy advocacy groups have been celebrating the news.
"Action and pressure work! Thank you to all the calls, petition signers, and members who met with legislators," the New Jersey Organizing Project posted on their Facebook page Friday afternoon.
A333 Statement Upon Signing
Russ Zimmer: 732-557-5748, email@example.com
'Activism for All' Ramps Up in Ocean County - Victoria Ford, The Sandpaper
Like never before in U.S. history, people across the political spectrum – those who identify as Democrat, Republican, Independent, apolitical, progressive, conservative, feminist, or eschew labels altogether – are choosing this moment to get involved, be it for the first time ever, or for the first time in decades. Some say they are urged by a sense of civic duty or moral imperative to fight for their beliefs, to challenge the people in power and to make what they hope is a positive difference, whether in their community or in the big picture.
In the weeks since a Jan. 21 bus trip that ushered 100 local protestors (with widely varying political and personal motivations and principles) to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., here at home the movement – or “marathon,” as co-organizer Christine Rooney of Ship Bottom describes it – has continued on several fronts.
The New Jersey Organizing Project, headed up by Cedar Bonnet Island’s Amanda Devecka-Rinear and Manahawkin resident Joe Mangino, has added the causes of healthcare and climate change to their ongoing work in seeking justice for victims of Superstorm Sandy. NJOP held kickoff meetings Jan. 28, attended by about 100 people in different parts of Ocean County, sharing stories, ideas and readiness to dig in and work with neighbors for families and values, according to the organization. The main bases covered were “economic security and dignity” with regard to the potential loss of healthcare coverage for 800,000 New Jerseyans; Sandy recovery, in fighting the foreclosure crisis, contractor fraud, and the state RREM disaster relief program “clawbacks” of demanding return of certain promised grant amounts; a “shore keeper” strategy, with respect to future extreme weather and sea level rise; and next steps (meetings in Atlantic City and Monmouth bayshore areas are planned the last weekend in February).
On Jan. 26, Rooney and Devecka-Rinear (along with Tuckerton resident Bonnie Richmond and local businesswoman Becky Tarditi) held an “Activism: 101” workshop at the Barnegat branch of the Ocean County Library. Rooney described it as “a low-key, soft introduction” to activism, attended by about 20 people, where Devecka-Rinear gave a training and Rooney followed up with a PowerPoint presentation.
Rooney feels the focus should not be what she and others are against, but rather what they are for: health care, environmental protection, social security, anti-discrimination, funding for the arts and world peace.
People want to have a voice, and they’re looking for ways to be effective, according to Rooney. She administers a Facebook page called March on LBI/Ocean County Women as an online gathering place for information and resources. There, she and others post upcoming actions, rallies, vigils, advice on phone calls to make and letters to write to legislators, and links to such entities as MoveOn.org, Wall-of-Us.org and New Jersey Citizen Action so people can participate in whatever ways work best for them.
On Jan. 29, some area residents joined the protests at Philadelphia International Airport against the president’s ban on travel from certain Muslim countries. The following Tuesday, more than 100 demonstrators gathered at Congressman Frank LoBiondo’s office in Mays Landing (while he was away in Washington, D.C.) to express their dissatisfaction with the travel ban. Among them were Valerie Vaughn and some of her fellow Little Egg Harbor citizens. Vaughn described the experience as spiritually enlightening: An imam from a local mosque led a group in prayer, then Vaughn sang an a capella rendition of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and everyone sang along.
Two days later, on Feb. 2, a group of 15 from LBI and the mainland – nearly all first-time activists, according to Karlyn Ippolito of Surf City – went to LoBiondo’s office and met with District Director Linda Hinckley in the congressman’s absence.
“We spent about an hour discussing our concerns with the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Ippolito said. “Many of the people around the table told of their personal concerns.” They all signed a letter and left it in Hinckley’s care, requesting an appointment with LoBiondo and emphasizing the need for “town hall”-style meetings where he can field questions. As it is, according to Ippolito, LoBiondo holds town halls via teleconference with tens of thousands of people on the line, which she feels is not the ideal format for getting questions answered and concerns addressed.
“We were told he will not be back in district until March – not one day – and it is too soon to begin setting up appointments for March.” Hinckley suggested they try scheduling a meeting with his appointment secretary in Washington, D.C.
“Our impression was that while Ms. Hinckley was unfailingly polite, there was no sign of anything changing,” Ippolito said.
Friday, Feb. 3, Tarditi visited the mosque of the Islamic Society of Monmouth County in Middletown with about 300 others in what was described in reports as a multi-faith display of solidarity for the local Muslim community. Tarditi considers herself an activist for human rights. When she participates, she said, it’s on many levels, spiritual, political, emotional and physical (as in actions/ demonstrations).
“Passersby were mostly supportive,” Tarditi said, noting only one or two exceptions. The congregation was very appreciative, offering repeated thanks and refreshments and inviting supporters inside the mosque for the service, which Tarditi described as “interesting and friendly.” The resounding message from the service was for human beings to treat each other with dignity and respect, she added.
At press time, candlelight vigils were being planned for Wednesday, Feb. 8, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. (and every Wednesday) outside the offices of Congressmen Frelinghuysen, Lance, LoBiondo, MacArthur and Smith, in light of plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The idea is to urge legislators to prevent funding cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and to ensure 30 million people can keep their healthcare coverage.
— Victoria Ford
Survey Looks For Sandy Problems And Solutions - Chris Lundy, Micromedia Publications
OCEAN COUNTY – As part of a recent survey, 71 percent of people affected by Superstorm Sandy stated that they are suffering from increased physical or mental health issues that are directly related to the storm.
This is a snapshot of an incomplete survey called the Sandy Truth Project. It is being used to understand more clearly the issues that are still affecting survivors more than four years later. And it needs your voice.
The survey is online at newjerseyop.org/sandy-truth-project.html.
The group behind it, the New Jersey Organizing Project, is an advocacy group that started two years after Sandy with the goal of making sure that people were getting the help they needed, said its director, Amanda Devecka-Rinear. Now, four years and four months after the storm, there are still people affected in unprecedented ways.
“Sandy recovery is failing,” she said. “Where are we in recovery? Are we prepared for future storms?”
They are looking for transparency in how aid for Sandy is allocated. How much of the money went to consulting firms rather than residents, for example.
Currently, they are pushing for the foreclosure bill (A333/S2300) that would provide a cushion for those who are facing foreclosure on their homes.
One of the more recent issues is clawbacks, said member Joe Mangino. Sometimes a homeowner has had to give money back. People have been receiving vague letters stating that they owe money to the government without any explanation, he said.
“The homeowner now has to do more legwork,” he said. There never seems to be an end to the issues.
There also is no hard deadline for the end of the survey period, he said. The group is using it as an opportunity to expand as an organization and find more ways to help residents.
The mission statement for NJOP is quite broad: “We work together to pass policies that make life better for everyday people, change institutions, hold corporations accountable and ensure elected officials stand with us, their constituents.” Their first initiative was the “Finish the Job” campaign in 2014, because too few people were back in their homes. A lot of money was still being withheld.
Previous campaigns have centered on getting more accessible guidelines for how to file for aid, contractor fraud, foreclosures, and getting people off waitlists for funding.
Formed in 2014 by nine Sandy survivors, the New Jersey Organizing Project is a non-profit, with no political affiliation. Other issues they are addressing are climate change and cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs. The group recently held two kick-off meetings for 2017 in Manahawkin and Brick.
Ventnor meeting focuses on Sandy recovery - The Current
VENTNOR – The New Jersey Organizing Project, a grass-roots organization known for its advocacy for Hurricane Sandy affected families, is hosting a an action kick-off meeting 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday Feb. 25 at the Ventnor Library, 6500 Atlantic Ave.
The group's 2017 campaign will focus on economic security and dignity for all, including health care, Medicare and Medicaid, and full and fair Sandy recovery.
Its Shore Keeper Campaign is intended to ensure that New Jersey is ready for future storms and has a plan to deal with sea level rise.
Call 609-312-8471 or see www.newjerseyop.org.
Sandy Recovery Group To Hold Meetings - Chris Lundy, Micromedia Publications, Inc.
OCEAN COUNTY – Two meetings will be held by the New Jersey Organizing Project to gather information about Superstorm Sandy survivors and make goals for how to help these people in 2017.
The southern Ocean County kickoff meeting will be held on Saturday, January 28, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the East Bay Avenue Community Center in Stafford, 775 East Bay Avenue, Manahawkin.
The northern Ocean County kickoff meeting will also be January 28, but from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Brick library, 301 Chambersbridge Road.
The NJOP work to make Sandy recovery work for families, and help them deal with clawbacks (when government programs ask for money back), foreclosures, and contractor fraud, among other issues. Other issues they are addressing are climate change and cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other health care programs.
Sandy foreclosure bill heads to governor - Jean Mikie, Asbury Park Press
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