Housing, banking advocates hail measure to speed foreclosures of abandoned homes

A piece of state legislation that looks to turn foreclosed homes into affordable housing also contains a little-noted provision that banking and housing experts say would provide an important step to unclogging the bottleneck holding back the state’s housing recovery.

A bill introduced last month by Sens. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), along with a parallel measure in the Assembly, would create a legal mechanism to move abandoned properties more quickly through New Jersey’s enormously bogged-down foreclosure pipeline.

This process would allow mortgage lenders such as banks to petition Superior Court to expedite a foreclosure on properties they have reason to believe are abandoned and vacant. If the court agrees, it would then direct a sheriff, county agency or trustee to sell the property within 45 days.

While this expedited process would be used ostensibly to create a pool of homes that municipalities and community groups can purchase for affordable housing, supporters say its purpose goes beyond that mandate, in that the abandoned properties could be resold at market rates, too.

On top of that, shunting a segment of properties out of the state’s judicial foreclosure process would help alleviate some of the backlog weighing down the state.

“What’s happening right now is not the best way,” said Michael Affuso, director of government relations for the New Jersey Bankers Association.

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