N.J. trying again on plan to recycle foreclosed homes into affordable housing

A Senate committee has advanced a measure to give New Jersey towns double credits toward their obligation to ensure adequate housing if they buy foreclosed residential properties, then convert them into affordable housing. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

A Senate committee has advanced a measure to give New Jersey towns double credits toward their obligation to ensure adequate housing if they buy foreclosed residential properties, then convert them into affordable housing. (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

New Jersey lawmakers are trying again on legislation to help increase the state’s stock of affordable housing after former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed similar legislation three times.

A Senate committee has advanced a measure to give towns double credits toward their obligation to ensure adequate housing if they buy foreclosed residential properties, then convert them into affordable housing.

It would be a creative solution to a vexing problem, said Staci Berger with the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

“We have homes that have no people in them, and we have an enormous housing crisis of affordability. We simply do not have enough homes that people can afford,” she said. “So, taking places that don’t have people in them — and turning them into places than can have people in them — doesn’t seem like rocket science. It should be a no-brainer.”

Affordable housing activists say the plan would be a step forward in the state’s slow recovery from the foreclosure crisis. The continuing lag is hurting New Jersey’s economy.

The bill is also good public policy, said Jeff Kolakowski with the New Jersey Builders Association.

“It’s about creating a clearinghouse to try to kind of weed through and get rid of this backlog of foreclosures that we have here in New Jersey,” he said. “As you may know, we have a judicial foreclosure process here in New Jersey that takes an inordinate amount of time. I think, on average, it’s about 900 days.”

Pete McAleer with the Administrative Office of the Courts clarified that the time frame has dropped, and it’s now 148 days from complaint to judgment.
Editor’s note: This post was updated Sept. 18 with a clarification from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

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