"I assume what you'll hear from these Assembly panels if they're going to play it straight is, 'great job by the administration for getting this thing going and getting help out to people especially now that the moratorium has been lifted,'" Christie said.
Some $59 million of the funds has now been distributed, and the denial rate has dropped to 48 percent, in part because some who apply aren't eligible.
Democratic Assemblyman Jerry Green, who chaired the hearing, said it's clear the administration dropped the ball under the previous DCA commissioner. And, he said toward the end of the hearing, he's still concerned.
"It's obvious it's not moving so smoothly as I was led to believe early this morning," he said.The panel also heard from anguished homeowners who were denied aid and given no other alternatives, and told by good government groups of other homeowners who qualified for the program when they applied but owed too much to still qualify by the time their application was reviewed. Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action, a homeowner loan counseling agency, said remaining program funds should be spread out, with some being allocated to other anti-foreclosure initiatives such as a revolving loan fund. "We urge the Legislature and the governor to establish a complete menu of options to help hard-working New Jerseyans stay in their homes, including expanded funding for counseling and principal reductions, which would require banks to renegotiate mortgages for underwater homeowners at current market values, assuming the homeowners were able to pay," she said. The Assembly housing committee then advanced three bills meant to help ease the foreclosure problem, including one requiring the state's foreclosure mediation program to continue and another requiring the state to buy foreclosed properties for use as affordable housing. The Senate is scheduled to take up two foreclosure bills Thursday, one to require the administration to expand the HomeKeeper program and another to force the state's hand on turning foreclosed properties into affordable housing.