March 22, 2013
Contact: Paul Karr


Advocates Call for Fines Against Banks & Eminent Domain to Address Consequences of Foreclosures

Newark, NJ – Compelled by the experience of Newark grandmother Grace Alexander, leaders on the Newark City Council have scheduled a public hearing to consider out-of-the-box ideas to save families from foreclosure and address the public cost.

What: Newark Municipal Council Public/Private Housing Committee
When: April 18th, 11:00 AM
Where: Newark City Hall, 920 Broad Street, Room 304

New Jersey is faced with the second highest rate of foreclosure in the entire country and is moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the country when it comes to foreclosures, according to RealtyTrac. In just the first month of 2013 nearly 3,500 New Jersey homeowners were subjected to foreclosure filings by the same Wall Street banks  that created the housing bubble - a 148% increase from the month prior.

“Foreclosures hurt homeowners and their families, decrease the value of neighboring properties and ultimately drain the revenue streams cities and counties need to pay for infrastructure, education and first responders among many other critical public services,” said Newark City Councilman Darrin Sharif. “This is the most important issue facing our city today and I’m anxious to review the research and consider our options at the local level to tackle what Governor Christie has put on the back burner.”

“For years, Governor Christie failed to release more than $300 million dollars in Hardest Hit funds that could save families from the streets,” said Trina Scordo, executive director of New Jersey Communities United. “His administration started releasing some of those funds only after public scrutiny – and even now the distribution of that money is a trickle compared to the flood of foreclosures in the pipeline for 2013.”

Advocates also claim that Gov. Christie has taken $75 million from the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement to plug budget holes, money that should have gone to fund Legal Services and housing counselors which provide essential expertise to struggling homeowners navigating through the complex foreclosure process.  “We want that money back,” said Scordo. “Gov. Christie also has a responsibility to ensure that the more than $725 million from the settlement is being properly distributed – but he has failed to take an active role in holding the worst actors on Wall Street accountable for fixing the destruction they have brought to New Jersey communities.”

“My Ward has the highest amount of foreclosed housing in Newark, which is why I helped launch the Newark Essex County Foreclosure Task Force in 2007 to combat this crisis,” said Newark West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice. “But banks have to be willing to be part of the solution, work with residents and adhere to federal mandates in the spirit of humanity.”

"At a time when the stock market is reaching all-time highs and the banks are now bigger than ever, it is shameful that thousands of working families across New Jersey continue to be pushed out of their homes," said Milly Silva, an Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.  "We are so proud of the courage our union sister Grace Alexander showed as she stood up against Bank of America and demanded that the corrupt practices of Wall Street banks be exposed.  Public hearings like this one are vital to uncovering the true extent of the damage that predatory banks have caused to New Jersey communities."

Other cities around the country – including Chicago, Berkeley, and New York's Suffolk County - are exploring policies that include the use of eminent domain and enforcing vacant property fines against the Wall Street banks that have pushed families out of their homes and assumed ownership. The hearing in April will detail the estimated cost of the foreclosure crisis on Newark as well as the potential for revenue generation that could come as the result of enforcing local abandon property ordinances.

Anti-foreclosure activists anticipate a large turn-out at the April hearing which will include testimony from experts, advocates and Newark residents who have lost their homes to foreclosure or are currently in the process.

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New Jersey Communities United
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