New Jersey's housing market is getting a boost as it struggles to get off the mat from the foreclosure driven recession, and a pounding from Superstorm Sandy.

(L-R) Developer Sean Closkey, Rev. Clarence Bulluck, Neptune Mayor Eric Houghtaling and HMFA Dir. Anthony Marchetta (Rosetta Key, Townsquare Media NJ)

Using townhouses in Neptune that are only 60 percent occupied as their backdrop, officials from New Jersey's Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) announced the Sandy Homebuyer Assistance Program. The program uses $25 million of the nearly $2 billion dollar Community Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to help low-to-moderate income families put hefty down payments toward home purchases.

The money serves as a soft interest-free forgivable loan. "So if they could normally afford, based on their income, a $150,000 mortgage. We can assist up to $50,000 more and they can acquire a house at $200,000. So this allows them an opportunity to really look for a house that could suit their needs," said Anthony Marchetta, executive director of HMFA.

Marchetta said the program is designed to assist people who may not have been in the area prior to the storm to buy in the nine affected counties of Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.  It is also for residents already living in these communities. However, he said the program is designed to give priority to residents living in the affected counties.

"For the first 90 days we will only accept applications from those nine most impacted counties. After that, if there's any money left, we'll invite people from outside of the nine counties. So you can come from Hunterdon County, for example, and purchase in Ocean County after the 90 day period is over."

Marchetta said the loans will also be forgiven if the homeowner lives in the residence for five years.

However, the HMFA is requiring that applicants participate by working with one of several counseling services being offered through out the state. One such program is being offered by the non-profit Faith Fellowship Community Development Corporation that serves residents of Middlesex, Ocean and Monmouth Counties.

"These counselors will work with the individual interested in the program to see if one, they qualify and are eligible and to assist them. Hopefully, once they've met with their counseling agent they will now know what they can afford, and where they can look to buy and once they qualify they can go find a house in any one of these nine counties and make an offer," said Marchetta.

Neptune Mayor Eric Houghtaling said, "I think it's a great thing. I mean I just hope people will be able to take advantage of what's being offered between the state of New Jersey and what the township itself is doing. This is a link here in our Neighborhood and we really want to get it done because it will really provide some continuity in this neighborhood."

Get more information about the Sandy Homebuyer Assistance program by clicking here or by calling the Housing Assistance Hotline 1-855-SANDYHM. You can also visit one of the nine Housing Recovery Centers.