Untitled Document
August 4, 2015


(Newark, NJ) – The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., are getting the word out that federal no-interest, deferred-payment home mortgage down payment loans of up to $50,000 are available for qualified low-income first-time homebuyers through the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development.

The Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders and County Executive urge low-income first-time homebuyers to apply for no-interest, deferred-payment home mortgage down payment loans through the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development.  Pictured above are: (front row, left to right) Freeholders Patricia Sebold, Cynthia Toro, Lebby Jones, Wayne Richardson and County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.; (2nd row, left to right) Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill, Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, and Freeholders Rufus Johnson, Leonard Luciano and Rolando Bobadilla.  Photo by Glen Frieson

Since her swearing-in on New Year’s Day, Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake has made the goal of increasing home ownership and the availability of affordable housing a hallmark of her leadership efforts.  After learning that only one of these U. S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)-funded loans was issued through the County’s Homebuyer Assistance Program (HAP) in 2014 and consulting housing experts, she initiated several changes to the program’s policies and procedures to relax requirements and increase the maximum loan amount for residents striving to attain homeownership. “I want to thank County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., and Director George Serio for their partnership and quick action to formulate the changes”, said Timberlake, “as well as the members of the Board’s Housing & Community Development Committee for their input, and Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill and the entire Freeholder Board for their support in unanimously approving the changes during our May 16th meeting. The changes are as follows:

  • The maximum loan amount was increased from $30,000 to $50,000
  • Loans are now available for the purchase of 1-3 unit single- family homes (previously only 1-unit homes were eligible), as well as townhomes and condos
  • The Loan-to-Value (LTV) criterion has been relaxed (from 90% to 96.5%) so purchasers are only required to fund 3.5% of the purchase amount from their own non-bank/non-loan sources, rather than the previously-required 10%

“Homeownership is the bedrock upon which our communities are built and one of the most coveted manifestations of the ‘American Dream’ to which many aspire”, said Timberlake, “and it is our responsibility to ensure that government does everything possible to help people attain it.”  She spoke about having promised during her inaugural remarks to be an advocate for affordable housing and to be sure low-to-moderate income people receive the down payment assistance they need, “and I am proud to say that these changes to the HAP mortgage loan policies bring us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.  It should also be noted that because they are federally-funded, these loans have no impact whatsoever on property taxes or the County Budget. ”

“So many of our low-income neighbors desperately need these loans to afford mortgage down payments”, said District 5 Freeholder Cynthia Toro of Bloomfield. “These changes will give them the boost they need to make the dream of home ownership a reality.”

Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla of Newark also encouraged residents to apply for the HAP loans. “The tax benefits of homeownership vs. renting are well-documented”, said Bobadilla, “but being able to say you own your home means so much more than that: it instills a personal sense of pride and accomplishment that signals upward mobility, and increases the sense of truly belonging to the community in which you live while also stabilizing the community in a broader context.”

“In today’s day and age, moving up into the middle class is no longer the natural scheme of things.  It’s much, much harder to do now than it used to be, and people with low-to-moderate incomes need some help, they need a break”, said Freeholder Rufus Johnson, “and that’s exactly what these down payment loans are intended to do.  I just hope qualified applicants will take advantage of this great opportunity.”

The HAP loans are available to Essex County residents and non-residents alike, but only if the homes they wish to purchase are located in one of the 19 Essex County communities that constitute the Essex County Consortium: Belleville, Bloomfield, Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, Glen Ridge, Livingston, Maplewood, Montclair, North Caldwell, Nutley, Orange, Roseland, South Orange, Verona, West Caldwell and West Orange.  First-time homebuyers wishing to purchase homes in East Orange, Irvington and Newark must contact the Community Development Offices in those respective municipalities.

The loans of up to $50,000 may be used by low-income first-time homebuyers (or who at least haven’t held title to any property within the last five years) for down payments, closing costs or to reduce (“write down”) the mortgage principal.  The loans will be secured by the placing of 15-year liens on the properties that must be signed by every person listed on the deeds who also must execute a Promissory Note.  If a purchaser does not sell or transfer the property and also retains it as a primary residence for the duration of the 15-year period, the full amount of the loan will be forgiven, and will not have to be repaid.  If, however, any of these conditions are violated before the 15 years are up, the full amount of the loan must be repaid, although without interest or per diem charges.

The Essex County Division of Housing & Community Development expects to receive a total of $200,000 from the federal government’s HOME Investment Partnership Program that will be available for the HAP loans in 2015.  The maximum purchase price for a single-family home is $271,050, and loans for multi-family homes will only be available for the unit in which the applicant will reside, based upon a prorated purchase amount.

The HAP loans are available only to low-income applicants whose total household income falls within the range of 50%-80% of the Average Median Income (AMI) established by HUD for the Newark Metro Fair Market Rent (FMR) area (which includes Essex, Morris, Sussex and Union counties) as shown in the chart below:

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“When I decided to pursue elected office”, said Timberlake, “I did so only because I thought it would be an effective means to tackle social and economic disparities rampant in our county, and to help those who need our help the most, whether it be to access social services, education, training, employment or in this case, affordable housing.  It is my hope that this program will provide low-income residents with keys to the homeownership they thought was beyond their grasp.”

Interested applicants are encouraged to pursue their homeownership dreams by contacting:

Rafael Romero, Loan Advisor
973-655-0200 ext. 315
Fax #: 973-655-0982
Email: rromero@essexhcd.com
Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM

Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake is serving her first term as the Board’s District 3 Freeholder where she represents East Orange, Orange, South Orange and part of Newark’s West Ward.  She is the youngest member to serve on the Board and the only African-American woman to currently lead a freeholder board in New Jersey.  She may be reached at 973-621-4473 or online at btimberlake@freeholders.essexcountynj.org.

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For Additional Information, contact:
Gary Kroessig, Public Information
Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders

Board of Chosen Freeholders, County of Essex
Hall of Records - Room 558, 465 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Newark, New Jersey 07102
Tel: (973) 621-4486 Fax: (973) 621-5695