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Legislation more than eight years in the making that creates a new state program for turning foreclosed residences into affordable housing was passed overwhelmingly Thursday by the state Assembly.

Under the plan, the state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency would be able to buy foreclosed homes from institutional lenders, properties owned by municipalities due to a tax foreclosure and some homes subject to a nonperforming loan and dedicate them as affordable housing for up to 30 years.

Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, D-Essex, said funds for the program will be raised through a $350 fee added to the purchase of foreclosed homes, unless the purchaser is a first-time homebuyer.

“Although the methodology has changed, the goal remains the same: to create opportunities for New Jerseyans to live and raise their families in a safe, affordable place they can call home,” Jasey said.

“One of the very, very few positives of the pandemic is that it has laid bare many of the issues that we still have yet to face,” she said. “Housing is one of those issues. It’s a huge issue. Housing, health, education. These are issues that still need to be addressed, and this is certainly one way to begin to address those issues.”

The bill, A1049, passed 73-5. The votes against it were cast by Erik Peterson, Gerard Scharfenberger, Parker Space, Jay Webber and Hal Wirths, all of whom are Republicans.

The bill was passed in 2012 but vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. The Assembly passed it again in 2014, but it went no further. Last session, the first under Gov. Phil Murphy, the bill got through two Senate committees but again stalled.

James Williams, director of racial justice policy for the Fair Share Housing Center, said the legislation can build on the more than 65,000 affordable housing units he said will result from Mt. Laurel decisions, as housing agreements are negotiated and overseen by courts.

“New Jersey has made amazing strides in affordable housing,” Williams said. “We feel like this bill is an innovative and outside-the-box way of furthering that initiative.”

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities opposed the bill because a section had been removed giving municipalities a right of first refusal for what to do with foreclosed properties.

“Part of the municipal buy-in was that important provision that allowed municipalities to have the right of first refusal,” said Frank Marshall, the NJLM’s associate general counsel. “This is important because the issue of affordable housing is an extremely local issue, and it’s an issue that is trust upon municipalities.”

The bill heads next to the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.

The Assembly passed three other housing-related bills Thursday, as well:

  • S1055/A3659 Permits qualified municipalities to prohibit conversion of affordable residential rental units to certain forms of ownership housing. Sent to Murphy’s desk.
  • S908/A2480 Clarifies association assessment payment requirements in planned real estate developments. Returned to Senate to concur with amendments.
  • A2964 Requires all creditors that acquire title to non-owner occupied residential property following foreclosure to notify municipality and common interest community. Companion bill is before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee.
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