Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation Friday granting foreclosure protection to potentially thousands of victims of superstorm Sandy, but he did so with deep reservations.
After signing A-333, Christie released a two-page statement ripping the bill as “a transparent, useless political exercise by candidates for re-election falsely pandering to victimized voters.”
“I have chosen to sign it to give Sandy victims the morsels of relief this vanity exercise of a bill offers,” he wrote. “I will use my executive authority to attempt to repair the mountains of damage this could cause to our federal funding flow and our state housing market.”
Christie didn’t stop there.
“It is selfish of the Legislature to use its authority to play on the emotions of Sandy victims with the empty promises of this bill; as we have done for the last 4½ years, the executive branch will use our authority to provide real solutions based on facts, not emotion or political grandstanding.”
Read the entire statement below.
The bill allows homeowners who are in the Rehabilitation, Elevation and Mitigation program and RREM’s sister program for low- and moderate-income homeowners to petition the state Department of Community Affairs for a reprieve from foreclosure actions until as late as July 2019.
Post-Sandy, many homeowners have been thrust into bankruptcy or its brink, broken by unexpected rent payments and the mortgage on their storm-ravaged homes. Hundreds, if not thousands of Shore families, have been set back as well by insurance woes, slow-moving government programs, and shady contractors.
Christie had until Monday to make a decision on the bill, which the Legislature sent to his desk on Dec. 19.
The Governor’s Office had declined to speak on what action Christie might take, but he had conditionally vetoed a previous version of the legislation, expressing concern about the role of the DCA in what has always been a judicial process.
Gov. Chris Christie in a flie photo (Photo: Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)
The DCA remains central in the version he signed Friday, as does language that could potentially include 61,000 homeowners who received FEMA housing aid after the October 2012 storm. That’s in addition to the 2,800 homeowners still in the construction phase of RREM.
The bank lobby, which opposed the bill, argued that adding in the FEMA population would include tens of thousands who were not as severely impacted by Sandy. Christie echoed those worries in his statement.
“As it stands now, Sandy victims who have mortgage default problems completely unrelated to storm damage can claim mortgage forbearance under this bill,” he wrote. “That is how sloppily written, ill-conceived and politically pandering this bill is from the Legislature.”
But Sandy advocacy groups have been celebrating the news.
“Action and pressure work! Thank you to all the calls, petition signers, and members who met with legislators,” the New Jersey Organizing Project posted on their Facebook page Friday afternoon.
A333 Statement Upon Signing
Russ Zimmer: 732-557-5748, firstname.lastname@example.org