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Newark looks to Obama housing plan with hope

The News Leader
March 8, 2010 1:36:11 PM PST
The president is trying to shake up the still-troubled housing industry. With more than 5 million Americans behind in their mortgage payments and risking foreclosure, the Obama administration now wants those homeowners to sell at a loss. And Washington will help pay for it. All over Newark, there are blocks with boarded up houses next to well-kept homes. Foreclosures are making neighboring homes less valuable and less safe, so homeowners here are hoping for a change.

Antwan Hunter and his family have lived on 19th Avenue in Newark for four years. They're not behind on their mortgage payments. But plenty of their neighbors are, and the boarded-up homes are taking a toll.

"There are a lot of boarded up houses," he said. "It looks bad. You see rats, junkies coming out of them."

A new plan unveiled by the Obama administration is designed to get more homes on the market before they go into foreclosure. Under the plan, which goes into effect April 5th, homeowners would receive $1,500, and the one or two mortgage banks would get $1,000 each if they participate in a so-called short sale.

"If they would give them some relief, they are deciding whether to buy food or pay their mortgage, that's not right," said Brenda Hudson, of Worldwide Realty.

If the process is simplified, some experts say New Jersey would be an ideal market for short sales - defined as selling a home for less than the outstanding balance of the mortgage. But the director of a group that tries to keep people in their homes wonders why the plan doesn't do more to help people stay in their homes.

"Before we start talking about selling short, we should be talking about reducing principal so people could stay where they are," said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, of NJ Citizen Action.

Residents in neighborhoods affected by foreclosures say they'll welcome any plan that makes housing and the community more stable.

"It brings us down and it makes it look like we're living in poverty when we could be doing quite well," Irvington resident Finesse Bridges said.

There were 60,000 foreclosures in New Jersey last year, one of the highest rates in the country.


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