By NIKITA BIRYUKOV
New Jersey Monitor

Gov. Phil Murphy is allocating $10 million in federal COVID funds to a state program aimed at preventing foreclosures.

The state Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency will use the dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan to offer financial assistance to some homeowners facing foreclosure and renovate and sell properties left vacant.

The effort is tied to the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which was signed in March 2021 and allows the state to buy out some defaulted mortgages from the Federal Housing Administration before foreclosures. If residents live there, the state helps keep them in their homes. If a house has been abandoned, the state will obtain the title, rehab the property, and put it back on the market.

During his Wednesday press briefing, the governor said the law “protects communities from being negatively impacted by the presence of an abandoned home.”

Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey President Staci Berger celebrated the allocation, pointing to pandemic-era spikes in evictions, rent and mortgage delinquency, and missed utility payments. The problems have affected Black and brown communities disproportionately, she said.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-Union) also commended the move, calling the New Jersey Foreclosure Prevention Act a “blueprint for putting an end to our persistent standing as the state with the highest foreclosure rates in the country.

A real estate study by Attom, which tracks real estate trends, found New Jersey has the third-highest rate of foreclosure activity in November 2021 and consistently falls at the top of the list. Across the Garden State, one in every 3,438 houses are facing foreclosures, compared to one in 6,675 nationally, the report says.

This story is provided by New Jersey Monitor, and originally appeared here