Tackling Housing Issue By Helping Residents Stay In Their Homes

John-KneibBy John Kneib, Mayor of Pennsauken Township

As I’ve said before, tackling the issue of abandoned and vacant properties throughout Pennsauken has been the number one priority of our Township Committee. And in the past few months alone, we’ve taken some serious steps to further address this problem.

Pennsauken currently has an ordinance in place that requires individuals, banks, and mortgage companies to register these homes with the Township and pay escalating annual fees as part of this process. And we’ve had some success with this registration. But it’s only one of the first steps we’ve taken. The Township Committee is following this up by proposing another ordinance that holds both banks and property maintenance companies even more accountable to maintain these homes to the high standards of our building maintenance department. The ordinance will also allow us to levy some serious daily fines if they don’t comply.

The Township has also hired a full-time staff member, Tracey Howarth, whose sole responsibility is to coordinate and spearhead our town’s efforts to deal with abandoned and vacant properties. You can read more about Tracey by clicking here.

But a really important part of this initiative is something we really haven’t addressed until now: making sure that homes don’t become vacant in the first place. Residents deserve to be able to stay in their homes and raise their families; and there are a few programs that can help homeowners in this regard.

The New Jersey HomeSaver Program, administered by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Financing Agency, offers eligible homeowners up to $50,000 in financial assistance to help bring their household monthly payment to an affordable level, by using funds to facilitate a refinance, recast, or permanent modification of the first mortgage loan. Now in order to be eligible for the program, homeowners must first meet specific criteria, such as having a first mortgage loan-to-value (LTV) ratio that is 115 percent or greater, and suffering a financial hardship (such as unemployment or a severe loss of income through no fault of your own) that has caused or will cause you to fall behind on your mortgage payment. You can find out about all of the necessary criteria and get more information on the entire program by visiting NJHomeSaver.com.

For those that are not eligible for the New Jersey HomeSaver Program, there are still options. New Jersey residents can get free help from a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency. The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency has compiled a list of such agencies in Camden County. For more information, visit NJHousing.gov/foreclosure or call (800) NJHOUSE.

There’s also the Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods Initiative, or SUN for short. This program helps homeowners facing eviction or foreclosure repurchase their homes with mortgages they can afford. SUN is currently accepting applications in New Jersey. Homeowners can find out if they are eligible by calling SUN toll-free at (855) 604-4663 or by visiting SUNHomeHelp.org.

People work hard to take care of their families and put a roof over their heads. But sometimes, these folk just find themselves in a bad situation and their first instinct is to walk away from their homes. They don’t have to. There are programs – like the ones mentioned here – that can help. I encourage any of our residents that are facing foreclosure to reach out to these organizations. A simple phone call could make all the difference.

On behalf of the entire Township Committee, I’d like to wish you and your family a great start to your summer.

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