The Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, a beneficiary agency of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, is urging Gov. Chris Christie to use $75 million in federal funds to aid families who have faced mortgage foreclosures rather than close gaps in the state’s budget.
The funds are part of a settlement New Jersey received in a multi-state lawsuit against large mortgage holders, including Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America.
NJ Citizen Action, which runs some of those housing programs, drafted and circulated a letter signed by JFS and 36 other religious, civic, and trade union groups. They urge the governor “to repay public funds lost as a result of servicer misconduct and to fund housing counselors, legal aid, and other similar public programs.”
“We do referrals and share cases together with Citizen Action,” said Reuben Rotman, JFS executive director, in a May 31 phone interview.
Within the course of a year, he said, his organization “probably works with 10 families who have received foreclosure notices.”
He signed on to the letter because “this makes a lot of sense to us. If there are settlement monies available they should go to support the housing needs of the families who are struggling.”
But NJ Citizen Action executive director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye has doubts that the funds will go to places where she believes they are needed most.
“What Christie is doing is just taking the money and using it for the budget. They are using the budget money to give tax cuts to the rich,” she said in a June 1 phone interview.
At a May 31 news conference, the governor denied that, calling his critics “simply wrong about it.” He said the money will “deal with housing problems, homelessness issues, and other affordable housing issues for the people of the state.”
Salowe-Kaye challenged the governor’s assurances.
“Christie’s response is that he is not stealing the money, that it is going for affordable housing. The whole thing is a shell game. This money should be going for new programs and to expand existing programs,” she told NJJN.
“The problem is there are 100,000 foreclosures which have not yet been processed, and they are all backlogged. So, when the floodgates open, the counseling agencies are going to be inundated with clients. The sum of $75 million needs to go to increased counselors, increased attorneys, public education, and outreach. We need to let folks know these programs are out there, they are free, and they can get one-on-one counseling,” she said.