Housing Transition Team Advises Murphy: First, Acknowledge the Crisis

Industry Update
January 31, 2018

Report lays out six priorities to increase housing stock and end foreclosures, does not call for COAH to be resurrected

Gov. Phil Murphy’s Housing Transition Advisory Committee recommends that he acknowledge New Jersey has a housing crisis and set six priorities for increasing New Jersey’s housing stock and keeping people in their homes, none of which includes a reconstitution of the state Council on Affordable Housing.

The report is one of 14 issued by the Murphy administration, after it created numerous transition committees seeking their recommendations. The transition committees were made up of stakeholders in the particular areas — nonprofits, citizen advocates, business interests, and so forth. The report takes on key issues facing the Garden State, including affordable housing and foreclosures.

The first and overarching recommendation of the housing committee’s 14-page report, which advocates praised, is that Murphy reinstate the position of senior deputy commissioner of housing in the Department of Community Affairs and the Statewide Commission on Housing, which were created by the Fair Housing Act of 2008 but never constituted by the Christie administration. These would be dedicated to better addressing the state’s housing needs.

No comeback for COAH

But since it did not call for resurrecting COAH, the report seems to hammer the last nail into the coffin of the former agency that was hated by Democrats and Republicans alike. Instead, the report urges the continuance of the current process, in which judges are approving municipal affordable-housing obligations. The Statewide Housing Commission is eventually expected to recommend a new administrative method for overseeing how to set affordable housing goals and see that towns comply with their constitutional mandate to provide a share of the statewide need for homes for those of low and moderate incomes.

“Once the court process is complete, the next iteration of an administrative agent must be in place,” the report states. “This will provide time for the commission to explore the optimal administrative agent and process to govern municipal fair-share requirements in New Jersey.”

Michael Cerra, assistant executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said not recommending a replacement for the current court process, which he termed “dysfunctional, costly, ineffective and inefficient” for towns, is the report’s greatest missed opportunity.

“The state has vacated the playing field, both the Legislature and the previous administration,” Cerra said of inaction on affordable-housing rules. “This was certainly an opportunity to contemplate how administrative functions could re-engage, but instead it downplays and punts on that issue.”

Construction already underway

The Fair Share Housing Center, which has been a party to these court cases and settlements and whose executive director was a member of the transition committee, disagrees. Spokesman Anthony Campisi said that 180 municipalities have agreed to zone for 60,000 homes through the process and that construction already has begun on some projects.

“Shovels are in the ground in many of these communities,” Campisi said. “To stop the process now would cause delay. The courts are giving us real results. The report concludes this process should continue. As to what’s next, we’d like to be included in any of these conversations.”

Municipalities have been obliged to provide for their share of the regional need for affordable housing for decades, following the state Supreme Court’s first and subsequent decisions that are known collectively as the Mount Laurel doctrine after the Burlington County township whose exclusionary zoning sparked the first cases. New Jersey’s Fair Housing Act established a mechanism for doing that and COAH to oversee that. But the Supreme Court took the responsibility away from the council after it failed numerous times to adopt satisfactory rules.

The report urges the creation of an overarching housing policy to most efficiently breach the barriers to improving affordability, which federal tax changes will only exacerbate.

Housing in crisis

It agrees with other reports released last year that termed New Jersey’s housing situation in crisis. About four in 10 households here struggle to pay housing and other costs and the state needs 150,000 new affordable homes immediately and a way to ensure the ongoing production of more units, according to the report.

“This housing crisis undermines the governor’s goal of a stronger and fairer economy and contributes to the exodus of families, millennials, and seniors,” it states. “In the past eight years, this housing crisis has not been a State priority. In fact, funds to support the development and preservation of affordable homes have been re-allocated to the general treasury, exacerbating the housing problem. This has led to disjointed programs scattered across multiple departmental divisions attempting to fill gaps.”

A more robust state housing program should identify funding sources, streamline programs, consolidate funding opportunities in the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and work with local public-housing authorities both on creating more affordable housing and preventing people from losing their homes through foreclosure.

Incentivizing the production of housing is another priority the report recommends. It suggests tripling the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit cap from $10 million to $30 million as a way to get businesses to invest in housing, commercial and mixed-use projects. According to the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, the program has so far leveraged $9 from private and public sources for every $1 tax credit given and it has resulted in the construction of more than 1,200 homes and 350,000 square feet of commercial space.

The state should also use grants from the Economic Development Authority to support moderate-income housing construction and reorganize the NJHMFA to make it a “one-stop shop” for housing programs.

With the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, New Jersey should aggressively work to keep people from losing their homes, the report states. It recommends Murphy start by reversing several Christie positions that prevented the state from effectively battling the problem. For instance, it suggests Murphy take action to work with local organizations to turn foreclosed homes into affordable housing — Christie vetoed a bill that sought to do that three times. It also seeks the codification of a mediation program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and suggests that it be funded by a temporary $800 surcharge on each foreclosure complaint filed in the state, to be paid by the lender.

To help pay for foreclosure programs, and perhaps other housing programs, New Jersey should be aggressive in pursuing all federal settlements with financial institutions resulting from their roles in foreclosure actions, which the report estimates could total as much as $600 million for the state that has not been pursued.

Other areas the report states should be priorities are:

  • Reduce barriers to creating housing by streamlining approvals for inclusionary developments, remove other barriers to construction and providing greater planning support to municipalities.
  • Provide legal assistance to those facing eviction or foreclosure by implementing a pilot program to give representation to those threatened with a loss of their homes and to enforce anti-discrimination laws.
  • End homelessness by restructuring programs that help the homeless, making it a priority to provide permanent, supportive housing to all in need, increasing fees to fund county or a statewide Homeless Trust Fund to pay for shelters, and banning the blacklisting of tenants who had a prior housing court appearance.

Housing advocates like Staci Berger, the president of HCDNNJ, were pleased with the simple idea of a governor who is serious about housing issues but they also support the report’s recommendations.

“We are looking forward to working with the administration to accomplish the priorities presented in the report to making New Jersey a place everyone can afford to call home by addressing foreclosure and homelessness prevention, tenants’ rights, expanding the Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credit Program, and of course creating more affordable choices for all residents,” Berger said.

Source: NJ Spotlight

Additional Resource:

New Jersey Housing Transition Advisory Committee (Report of the Housing Transition Advisory Committee)



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.