A bill to extend foreclosure protection and mortgage relief for Hurricane Sandy-affected homeowners passed the state Senate Thursday and now heads to the governor.
He will have to sign it quickly to keep the protections in place without disruption, since an existing foreclosure protection program under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie in early 2017 ends June 30.
“With so many of our Atlantic County families still waiting to move into their homes and on with their lives six years after Sandy, it would have been completely unfair for them to face foreclosure because of government bureaucracy and contractor fraud," said State Senator Chris Brown, R-Atlantic, a co-sponsor of S-3582.
The bill would provide a three-year extension of foreclosure protection and mortgage relief programs for Hurricane Sandy-impacted homeowners until July 1, 2022.
It passed the Assembly in March as A-5096.
Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic, are prime sponsors of identical legislation in the Assembly; and Dianne Gove and Brian Rumpf, both R-Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington, are co-sponsors.
"People are still out of their homes, and mainly because of bad contractors," said Mazzeo on Thursday. "The governor, I would think, would see the importance of signing this bill into law."
Other co-sponsors of the legislation, A-5096/S-3582, in the Senate are Democrat Sens. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth and Christopher Connors, R-Ocean, Atlantic, Burlington.
Connors, Rumpf and Gove said their delegation worked with representatives of the New Jersey Organizing Project to advocate for the legislation.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure everyone who was impacted by the storm regains a sense of normalcy in their lives," the legislative team said in a statement. "This doesn’t just mean living in your home again – it also means putting an end to the constant battles with mortgage companies, insurance companies, contractors, and the bureaucracy as a whole."
Hurricane Sandy happened in October 2012, but there are still more than 1,000 families who qualified to receive federal recovery funding who have not been able to complete the rehabilitation of their homes or move back in, according to the amended bill S-3582.
The amendments would not allow any new homeowners into the program, but would extend the protections to those already covered who need more time.
The original bill gave Sandy-affected homeowners who qualified for federal assistance the ability to apply for a forbearance period on their mortgages, during which they could stop making mortgage payments but would have to continue to maintain and insure their properties and pay property taxes.
The mortgage forbearance period in the 2016 bill extended to one year after the home was awarded a certificate of occupancy, or to July 1, 2019, whichever was earlier.
In 2016 there were 3,200 Sandy victims still working on their damaged homes.
The bill defined a Sandy-impacted homeowner as one who received rental assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a result of damage to his or her primary residence due to Sandy, or who has been approved for assistance through the Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program or the Low-to-Moderate Income program.