New Jersey leads the nation in foreclosure rates and significantly late mortgage payments, and it has for the last several consecutive years. The Garden State is still feeling the effects of the housing crisis, and people there struggle to catch up (or stay caught up) on payments. Fortunately, thanks to federal and state funding, there are some helpful options for homeowners who are facing tough times.
The HomeKeeper Program
Although New Jersey isn’t the only state in the country still reeling from the housing crisis, it is one of the best states in the country for obtaining financial help for keeping your home in certain circumstances. The state’s HomeKeeper program is open to anyone who is facing financial hardship like divorce, death in the family, significant injury or illness, underemployment, or unemployment. This program is designed to help cover monthly mortgage payments – at least partially – to help New Jersey residents keep their homes.
The Program’s Lifespan
The HomeKeeper program got its start back in 2011, and in that year, it gave some $230 million to over 6,000 borrowers That’s an average of just over $38,000 per borrower. Eventually, the program stopped accepting applicants as federal dollars driving the program came to an end. Recently, though, the state of New Jersey received a grant of $115 million from the Hardest Hit Fund, which was created solely to help states still feeling the impact of the housing crisis. Whereas other states are finding their way out of the dark, New Jersey continues to suffer the most, and this is reflected in the state’s foreclosure rates.
Why Are People Struggling?
In years past, some of the troubles homeowners experienced in paying their mortgages could be blamed on things like bad mortgages – in other words, lenders who provided high-interest loans to underqualified applicants. These days, though, things are different. According to Shirley Abreu, who is a financial counselor for a nonprofit company called Family Guidance, the majority of foreclosures in New Jersey are due to economic issues. People are being laid off, getting sick, or experiencing hardships, and they are simply unable to keep up with their payments. Homeowners are facing foreclosure after missing three or four payments.
How HomeKeeper is Better than Before
When HomeKeeper first launched, there were issues. For example, people who applied still lost their homes because the application process took too long, and the eligibility rules were very strict. Governor Chris Christie has addressed these issues and says that the state’s Department of Community Affairs plans to add staff and ease eligibility requirements. The goal is to help as many homeowners avoid foreclosure as possible, thus helping New Jersey lessen the number of foreclosures statewide.
Only 18 states across the country received funds from the Hardest Hit Fund, and although New Jersey received less this year than in years past, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency says it will help thousands of people keep their homes. These same individuals may also qualify for a smaller program called HomeSaver, which has far stricter qualifications and provides much less in terms of financial help.