Now entering its third year, the New Jersey Homekeepers program is hitting it's stride, approving over 23,000 loans to avert foreclosure.

Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media

However, with Superstorm Sandy resulting in many residents losing their job or being put in financial hardship, the Department of Community Affairs believes the program will see even more necessity in 2013.

Since its inception in 2011, the Homekeeper program went from awarding 85 loans for the entire year, to upwards of 250 loans a month in 2012.

Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Rich Constable explains the increase in demand came from better marketing and public awareness and a streamlining of the application process, notably getting the time for approval to be an average of sixty days rather than four months.

Constable also loosed the criteria for qualifications.

"Obviously we're mindful of fraud, but we were in the past a bit too mindful of fraud."

Constable says they will be expanding the program even further, branching out beyond the unemployed and underemployed to include those in "fiscal distress."

"Whether it's relating to unemployment, or maybe you went through a divorce or medical bills have piled up and it's impacting on your ability to pay a mortgage you're eligible for the Homekeeper program."

The Commissioner notes that post-Sandy, unemployment claims went up dramatically.

"So we want to make sure that we marry those folks that were Sandy displaced with the Homekeeper program so after the storm and the rebuilding they don't have to worry about losing their home as well."

New Jersey is one of eighteen states that are allowed by the Federal Government to have a Homekeepers program, primarily because of the elevated levels of foreclosures since 2008. Constable says that while they expect foreclosure crises to wane as the economy improves, however he says the Homekeepers program will still fulfill an important need.

"We still have thousands of New Jerseyans losing their homes and we have to do something about it so the Homekeeper program is but a band aid."

Constable adds, based on the amount of people the program reaches, and the amount still out there, "sadly I don't think we will be in a situation where we don't need a Homekeeper program in New Jersey."

To date, the New Jersey HomeKeeper Program has committed nearly $96 million in assistance to families across the state, with an average loan of nearly $40,900.

For more information on NJ HomeKeeper, please visit their website.