New Jersey Is Still Looking For Its Glory Days As It Leads The Nation In Foreclosures
To look on the bright side—if there is one—the only way is up for the Garden State.
New Jersey residents are known for believing their state can top any other. But when it comes to leading the nation in foreclosures for the second year in succession, Jerseyites can only squirm with disappointment.
A combination of the state’s lengthy foreclosure process and a weak economy led to the continued glut of people unable to stay in their homes. It’s also why governor Chris Christie’s poll numbers tumbled like mountain rocks during an earthquake.
For the year, 1.86 percent of homes in New Jersey were in foreclosure, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions. That was slightly lower than the 1.91 percent in 2015. The national average was 0.70 percent, said Daren Blomquist, a senior vice president at ATTOM. That is the lowest rate since 2006. The foreclosure rate peaked at 2.23 percent in 2010, just after the recession ended.
Foreclosed homes stemming from the economic crash and before (32,279) still clogged up the system, thanks to time consuming legal process and illegal “robo-signings” at the start of the foreclosure process.
Foreclosed homes could have been moving through the system much faster if there had been buyers waiting to take them off the bank’s books. Much of the State’s economy is still suffering with lack of jobs and investment. The county suffering the worst from the state’s foreclosure crisis, according to Realty Trac’s 2016 Vacancy and Zombie Foreclosure Report, was Essex, home of the cities, Newark, Irvington, and the Oranges. Newark was hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis—but has recently been the subject of gentrification and revitalization. Its close proximity to NYC and the cost effective Path Train fare ($2.50) has made it ripe for a turnaround.
However, much of the development has been happening on the downtown area. It has yet to reach blighted areas like the South Ward, where crime and poverty are rife. That said, Newark has recently proved to be a haven for house flippers. There are plenty of available properties and people who want to live in them. Investors are making money by selling to would-be landlords or putting residents in credit repair programs so they can qualify to buy a home—often a duplex. The latter, then, can live in one floor and rent out another at a cheaper cost than paying rent themselves.
Less optimistic is Atlantic City in Atlantic County. The number of residents applying for food stamps and other types of government assistance has jumped over the last three years with the closure of four casinos. Camden County is also a perennially tragic story. Urban blight fueled by cronyism and corruption has kept the county among the worst performing in the state. Ocean County, too, is bad performer, with high unemployment and 8.5 percent of the population earning under $15,000 per year.
Surprisingly fourth from bottom in the state’s foreclosure rankings is the relatively affluent Bergen County in North Jersey. A sure sign that the over-leveraged McMansion owners from the 2008 crash have yet to clear the foreclosure pipeline.
To look on the bright side—if there is one—the only way is up for the Garden State. With interest rates still relatively low, and the proximity to NYC, recovery for some must surely be on the horizon. For other Jerseyites, though, Bon Jovi’s words are true: They’re still livin’ on a prayer.
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