JERSEY CITY, NJ - Hudson County property owners facing foreclosure as a result of COVID-19 induced financial struggles will now have powerful new allies thanks to a prominent legal assistance group located in Jersey City.

Concerned about Hudson County’s struggling homeowners, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, in coordination with the Board of Chosen Freeholders, has launched a Foreclosure Prevention Project with local nonprofit organization, The Waterfront Project, Inc.

The Waterfront Project – which ironically started out in the basement of St. Peter & Paul Church in Hoboken (as seen in the film “On the Waterfront:) has become a legal refuge for people who need help in dealing with landlord-tenant conflicts, issues of wills, and other civil legal matters facing working poor, seniors, veterans, and people living with disabilities.

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The Foreclosure Prevention Project provides free, confidential foreclosure prevention counseling by an experienced housing counselor, certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

“If a homeowner is having difficulty making their mortgage payments, I encourage them to contact the Foreclosure Prevention Project as soon as possible,” DeGise said,adding that “they do not have to go through this process alone.”

To help accommodate those that need the assistance WFP has hired veteran housing counselor William “Bill” Paige. With nearly 20 years of foreclosure prevention counseling experience, Paige has previously served as a Sr.Foreclosure Specialist and a Homeownership Counselor for the Neighborhood Housing Services of Staten Island, The Urban League, and the Tri-City People’s Corporation.

Paige explained that a foreclosure prevention counselor will provide struggling homeowners with information and guidance tailored to their specific situation, “it’s my job to help you understand your options and, in many cases, help you renegotiate the terms of your mortgage, making it more affordable. If your circumstances do not allow for you to remain in your home, I can identify programs that will help you relocate and transition into new housing.” 

WFP Board President, Isabel Chou, said she is pleased about this new partnership with Hudson County. “Our expansion to include foreclosure prevention among our offered services, fits nicely with our eviction prevention work, both prevent the displacement of Hudson County residents from their communities and ensure that vulnerable residents have equal access to justice.”

Central to the program’s success, WFP Executive Director Rebecca Symes explained, are the creation of a registry by Hudson County, and local ordinances passed in Jersey City, Guttenberg, and West New York, that require banks and mortgage providers to register, and pay a fee, when they initiate foreclosure proceedings. 

“By knowing which homeowners are in distress through the registration, The Waterfront Project can affirmatively reach out to them to offer our assistance,” Symes said. “And the fee the banks and mortgagees pay to register helps to mitigate the costs and impacts of foreclosures on our local communities.”

DeGise added also that there is no income eligibility criteria for this program because county officials “wanted to make the program available to all homeowners, so there are no barriers to receiving these free services.” 

Homeowners who are in distress should not ignore communications from their mortgage company or the court, he stressed. 

While Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 106 placing a moratorium on removals due to foreclosures until two months after the COVID-19 health crisis is declared over, court proceedings related to foreclosures are not suspended, Paige said, another reason struggling homeowners should not delay in scheduling an appointment with him, 

“Counseling is available in many languages, can be completed remotely by phone or computer, and appointments can be arranged outside of standard business hours,” he said, more indicators of the County, and WFP’s, to serve as many residents in need as possible. 

“Reach out to the Foreclosure Prevention Project’s HUD-certified housing counselor, whose services are always free, as soon as possible,” DeGise said. “ The County of Hudson wants you to have the best chance of keeping your home.”

Freeholder Bill O’Dea celebrated the new program saying that it is “desperately needed in this pandemic.” With opportunities for those struggling to possibly get their lender to suspend or reduce mortgage payments for a temporary period of time, allow an owner to catch up with past payments to avoid foreclosure, or establish a repayment plan, O’Dea said that WFP will provide them with needed legal services.

Reflecting on the organization’s founding in his political base of Hoboken in 2013, Freeholder Anthony Romano said he has been a supporter of the Waterfront Project “from the beginning” and that he was proud to be involved with the staff and volunteer attorneys that provide advice, guidance and representation from their location near Journal Square location, where they moved three years ago, thanks to the support of DeGise, so that they could, via public transportation, be more accessible to residents from every part of the county. 

Homeowners can schedule an appointment with the Foreclosure Prevention Project at The Waterfront Project by calling (551) 256-7578 or emailing William “Bill” Paige by clicking here.

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