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A New Jersey state senate bill that would allow financial firms to expedite the foreclosure process on abandoned, vacant homes is advancing after making it out of committee.
New Jersey Senate Bill 2156 will now head to the senate floor, bringing with it the hopes of neighborhood activists who want the legislation to speed up the foreclosure process on uncontested, vacant properties to save neighborhoods from foreclosure blight.
The bill would allow a lender to file a foreclosure action and speed up the process if they can prove the foreclosure is uncontested and the property remains abandoned.
In cases, where the property is not vacant or abandoned and the borrower or any other defendant has filed an answer to the complaint, the foreclosure cannot be expedited by the court, according to the bill.
Arnold Cohen, policy coordinator for the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey, says his agency supports the bill, with the "foreclosure process, in some cases, taking up to three years."
During that time period, a property turns into a drain on the neighborhood with "people going into the property and taking objects of value and unsavory elements coming in," Cohen told HousingWire.
"While these properties remain vacant it really brings down neighborhoods and hurts the values of adjoining properties," he said.
For other bill supporters, the current foreclosure crisis in New Jersey makes it necessary to keep the flow of distressed inventory at a minimum.
"We strongly support the bill," added Carol Ann Short, an attorney and chief operating officer for the New Jersey Builders Association. "We are talking about a vacant property, and these are uncontested matters. The legislation will give the court the tools they need to not only handle the existing backlog of pending foreclosures, but the large number of foreclosures that are looming now that New Jersey's foreclosure moratorium has been lifted."
Short sees the bill as one way to fix the foreclosure backlog, kick-start housing and stabilize the communities and financial markets at the same time.
With some foreclosures taking at least a few years, community advocates are embracing the bill as a reasonable, yet conservative reform, that will target properties where there is no homeowner fighting for the residence.
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