Standing up for our Homes – COVID Housing Relief

Joe and Carlos testify in favor of A4226: Concerns mortgage forbearance for certain residential homeowners and protections for certain tenants and landlords during COVID-19 pandemic.

Thanks to Joe Mangino and Carlos Bonilla, members of our organization, for testifying in front of the committee in support the A4226 Mortgage Forbearance and Rental Assistance bill.  Both Joe and Carlos are Superstorm Sandy survivors who have been displaced once from their homes due to the storm and find themselves once again fighting to keep a roof over their heads.

To learn more about the existing eviction and foreclosure protections, which are NOT enough, opens in a new windowclick here.

Here are their testimonies:

Carlos Bonilla, New Jersey Organizing Project Member:

“Good afternoon my name is Carlos Bonilla and I’m a representative of New Jersey Organizing Project here today with Joseph Mangino. Him as a homeowner and myself as a renter in New Jersey standing together to represent all homeowners and renters in the state. We are both Hurricane Sandy survivors here to urge for the Assembly to pass bill A4226 to protect homeowners and tenants during the COVID pandemic. We believe in this action for multiple reasons including my own personal reasoning. I was in seventh grade when Hurricane Sandy and to be honest I don’t remember much. When Atlantic City reopened its doors for entry after Hurricane Sandy back in 2012 I was only twelve years old when I came home to all of my families belongings thrown out onto the street ready for trash day. Nothing was recoverable and we became displaced from our home in Ventnor New Jersey for the duration for an entire year living in and out of seven different hotels. Experiences such as these could become traumatizing for the youth, which is why I’m testifying today for no child would have to experience what I’ve been through.

In this day in age halfway through March when quarantine was announced due to Covid-19 I lost my job at Target in Mays Landing where I’ve been established at the past three years. I used to work a crucial 30 hours a week as well as attended Stockton University in Galloway, majoring in health sciences. The money I received was used to handle the bills in order for me to live at an apartment closer to campus, which ultimately became my new home. Although the option to collect unemployment was available to me, the process of visually seeing action taken place has been noticeably slow. With that being said this fear of not being able to afford my home grew. With it being three months later I continue to struggle to pay my rent. The division of unemployment till this day owes me well over a month of unemployment, but I have yet to see any help. I’ve given up in collecting unemployment because of how stressful it became when I saw no signs of action. My biggest fear in not paying my rent is my credit being affected negatively. This year alone I’ve been focusing on trying to build my credit and it would be aggravating to see my score drop because I cannot afford my rent. I come from a lower-class family where my reasoning for moving out was to make my families situation a little bit easier and doable. It’s difficult to receive help from my family so this is why we are encouraging that we get this bill passed. Finally I just wanted to mention that I am tired and angry that we have to take the time out of our day to come together and discuss these matters because at the end of the day we should all continue to remain in our homes as the pandemic continues to grow. We at New Jersey Organizing Project support renters’ right to a home, and we want this bill to be passed for the sake of the renters in our communities.”

Joe Mangino, Board President New Jersey Organizing Project:

“Through no fault of their own homeowners like myself and renters like Carlos Bonilla are facing the prospect of foreclosures and evictions. Hard lessons learned after superstorm Sandy tell us that this impending housing crisis is preventable. But it’s only preventable if we act now and give homeowners the resources needed to save their biggest investment and renters the hand up to keep a roof over their families head. 

I applauded the governor back in March when he announced a freeze on evictions and foreclosures and a mortgage forbearance.  I reached out to my bank and realized the fine print – banks were being asked to defer the forbearance payment to the end of the loan. This was voluntary and there was no mandate. My bank, and many others, are not volunteering and must be told.  

Today June 16th, while I am testifying in support of A4226,is the same day that my 90 day forbearance ends and my mortgage company is expecting a lump sum payment to bring my mortgage current. A lump sum I don’t have due to Covid related unemployment. 

This is not new to me. I lost my home after superstorm Sandy and the only option available for mortgage relief was the same 90 day forbearance with the lump sum due on day 91. Not having a program that works for families  and not having those mortgage payments deferred to the back end of the loan created enormous hardship on our family. We stopped paying other bills, incurred thousands of dollars of credit card debt just to keep our home out of foreclosure. And this is a home we couldn’t even live in at the time. But we believed if you lose the home you could lose the family. We barely hung on but others weren’t so lucky. By the time a real forbearance bill was passed in 2017, thousands of New Jerseyians had lost their home to foreclosure. Thats 5 years of people losing it all. We can’t let this happen again.

 While we are excited about this legislation, we would like to see it strengthened.  Our Sandy forbearance legislation included protections for people who were behind when Sandy hit.  That’s because we knew if you had a shot of getting caught up before Sandy hit, you had no chance after. Similarly, we believe people who were struggling to get on their feet and who were hit by COVID’s health or economic impacts deserve protections – that means removing the provision that people had to be current on their rent or mortgage as of Feb. 1rst.  Having a disaster hit you on top of the disaster you were already facing does not disqualify you from protections.  

Our Sandy lessons have shown us voluntary and the banks won’t work. And that’s why we’re here today to say – please pass A4226 to give homeowners and renters a fighting chance to survive. Let’s not make the same mistakes we made 8 years ago.”

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