Investigations

Christie admits he was wrong about 'HomeKeeper'

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

It's not often the governor of New Jersey admits he made a mistake, but that's exactly what Gov. Chris Christie is now doing after an Eyewitness News investigation into how the state mishandled a federal program with hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent foreclosures. Now, the program will get kick-started to help save homes.

"Don't show up once in a blue moon and think you're going to dominate my press conference," Christie said last week, when Eyewitness News reporter Jim Hoffer asked about the program.

"I'm not, I'm just trying to get an answer," Hoffer replied.

Eyewitness News was trying to get a straight answer from him as to why the state still had left unspent most of the $300 million the federal government gave New Jersey two years ago to help families facing foreclosure.

This week, Christie changed his tune.

"Sometimes, I know it's going to be shocking for everyone to hear, government doesn't always work the way it's supposed to," he said.

A much less combative and calmer Christie says after the report aired, he spoke to the commissioner in charge of overseeing the loan foreclosure program.

"I said to Rich, 'What other factors other than the moratorium has contributed to us only giving out $41 million of the $300 million?'" Christie said. "He said our criteria were too stringent under the last Commissioner, which caused more people to be rejected that should have been accepted."

People like Brenda Klein, single mother Celeste Wright and 83-year-old Odessa Jenkins. All were denied help to stave off foreclosure, along with 2,600 other families who applied to the HomeKeeper program.

Now, the agency says it's making changes to speed up the distribution of the remaining $253 million dollars, including opening up eligibility requirements, increasing staff from 6 to 50 full-time workers and raising awareness through public service announcements. Christie says it's already working.

"We are obviously doing better than we were before, and more people are being helped," he said.

Christie still insists that a national moratorium on foreclosures is one reason his state was slow in approving loans. He says there was no urgency, but other states such as Oregon and North Carolina used that time to get the money to families before the moratorium was lifted.

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Tags:
new jersey, foreclosure, foreclosed homes, chris christie, investigations, jim hoffer
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