JOE TYRRELL | JANUARY 26, 2017

Housing advocates blame a lack of leadership at state level for Garden State’s highest foreclosure rate in nation

Housing markets have improved and foreclosure numbers dropped across the country since the Great Recession, but a decade on, New Jersey remains mired in a deep foreclosure swamp.

Statewide figures are significantly better than in 2009, the depth of the economic downturn. Yet some analyses cite Atlantic City as the worst housing market in the country, with Trenton not far behind. Overall, New Jersey continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to real-estate data firms.

While many factors contribute to the problem, housing advocates point to a lack of leadership from state government as significant. Gov. Chris Christie, who used $75 million from national foreclosure-prevention aid to plug a budget gap in 2012, seldom mentions the issue.

“In the other states where we work, we have governors who have welcomed us and networked us to their housing agencies and counselors,” said a relative newcomer to the state scene, Jessica Brooks, a vice president at Boston Community Capital.

Nonprofit housing organizations like BCC work with lenders and borrowers to prevent foreclosures. Some for-profit groups also have sprung up, like Community Champions of Melbourne, Florida to fight the effects of foreclosure blight. But as the major federal foreclosure relief ends, a lack of state leadership in New Jersey means municipalities must find such partners themselves. Meanwhile, borrowers must remain alert to police their own mortgages, according to a top foreclosure defense lawyer.

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