NEWARK, NJ - Three agencies will be on hand to assist homeowners in financial distress at a public forum scheduled for Wednesday January 25 at 5:00 pm in Siegler Hall on the campus of Essex County College, 303 University Avenue, in Newark to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure or have been subjected to predatory lending practices. The participating agencies are the Urban League of Essex County, Boston Community Capital Corporation SUN Initiative, and the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. This event is a follow-up to a forum that was held on December 14 2016 at the college.  The forum is free and open to the public.

New Jersey ended 2016 as the state with the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation. The foreclosure crisis has been particularly damaging in communities of color in the state, and Essex County is among the counties where large numbers of Black and Latino families have been disproportionately affected. 

Attendees will have the opportunity, if they please, to share their experience and will be able to talk to representatives of the participating organizations to seek assistance. Homeowners will also have their names forwarded to their local elected representatives and organizations in the state that can be of assistance. 

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The forum is being hosted by NorthStarNews.com, a Black public affairs website created in 2002 by former New Jersey NAACP political director Walter Fields, who serves as its Executive Editor. Fields noted, "As a resident of Essex County I am particularly concerned over how the foreclosure crisis has impacted children in our community. This forum is meant to connect distressed homeowners to help, and hopefully get them on the path to financial recovery and saving their homes. We must help homeowners if we are to stabilize neighborhoods and improve the quality of life in our communities."

The foreclosure crisis has been particularly onerous in New Jersey and Essex County. The state with a foreclosure rate of 1 in every 563 properties rates second in the nation in terms of foreclosure rates. In Essex County, the rate is 1 in every 679 properties with some municipalities (Irvington, 1 in every 376; East Orange, 1 in every 522; West Orange, 1 in every 527; and Newark, 1 in every 670) particularly hard hit. (Source: RealtyTrac)

Fields was prompted to the urgency of the foreclosure crisis by community activist Fredrica Bey and longtime NAACP officer and former state president James Harris. He reminded, "Foreclosure often is not a case of personal failure but instead a set of unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances that overwhelms the homeowner. It could be the loss of a job, a family emergency or a long-term illness that depletes financial resources. We have to remove the stigma of foreclosure to make certain that the investments people have made in their homes in not lost."

The forum is free and open to the public.