MReport July 2020

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36 | M R EP O RT FEATURE and very well connected through- out the country in terms of the relationships that he had with the mortgage banks," Clarke said. "He was a guy that I knew as a very high-integrity guy. He was all business, no bullshit, and very results-oriented." He added that Pallotta "always did things the right way." He said that, while he was initially surprised that Pallotta had sought a political career, the more he thought about it, the more he knew it was a good fit for his colleague. "I'm pretty impressed at how well he's done and how far he's gone," Clarke said. Housing and Economics in the Garden State N ew Jersey has been ravaged by the effects of COVID-19. More than 167,000 positive cases of the virus have been confirmed in the Garden State with more than 12,600 deaths. The pandemic is also taking a toll on housing in the state, as a report by revealed that new listings were down 40.7% annually in May. Camden, New Jersey, was among the areas hard- est hit, with listings falling 38.6%. Pallotta said New Jersey is one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, and not just due to prop- erty taxes—it also has one of the highest business tax rates. New Jersey's current property tax rate is 2.44%—more than double the national average of 1.08%. "Those difficult decisions to make each day generally revolve around money and finances. And when a higher and higher percent- age of your income … every year or every week or every month is going toward paying your bills, that's emotionally taxing," he said. He added that the difficult decision many residents of New Jersey have to make is whether or not they should leave the state, adding that New Jersey is the most exited state in the nation. "Taxes are overwhelming. It's a horrible business environment, for small and large businesses. And when a large business moves out, what do they do? They take jobs, and they take employees, which makes it even more taxing," he said. He added that policies were put in place pre-pandemic that caused unemployment to drop and con- sumer satisfaction to rise, adding "we were on our way" to making homeownership affordable. However, Pallotta said New Jersey was "moving in a differ- ent direction than the rest of the country" and gains were occurring slower, and they then screeched to a halt once COVID-19 hit. New Jersey's unemployment rate grew to 15.3% in April—a far cry from the 3.8% rate in January and February. "The economy was on track. We were moving in the right direction. Clearly, the pandemic has hurt us," he said. "I do think, over the course of the year, you're going to start to see unemployment come down, although I don't see it coming down below 10% before the end of the year unless we get a great recovery. But I think that the rebound starts with what we've seen already." Nationally, forbearance plans have given homeowners across the nation relief during these uncertain times. The latest report from Black Knight on June 18 found that while the number of loans in COVID-related forbear- ance has fallen by more than 150,000 from its peak, 4.6 million homeowners—or 8.7% of all active mortgages—are in forbearance. Pallotta added that while he likes the idea of forbearance, there are questions surrounding how the industry follows up and the amount of money owed by the borrower. "At some point, the servicer has to advance the money into the securitization, and they don't understand all the rules around that," he said. "I do think it's a good idea because relief in any form for the borrowers through the crisis, or helps consumers or, or our residents of the crisis." Growing up in Queens P allotta said his ability to reach across the aisle and connect with people was something he learned as a child. Pallotta was one of five children growing up in Woodhaven, Queens. While his New York Yankee fandom was not necessar- ily welcome among the mass of New York Mets fans in his neigh- borhood, he said it was a working- class neighborhood with kids "as far as the eye could see." "There were always people to talk with. And you always figured out how to work with big crowds and big groups, whether it was stickball or a game of tag. You worked in unison. You worked together," he said. Pallotta explained that being around that environment as a child helped him during his professional career, saying it helped him grow into a leader and taught him how to gain consensus. "I enjoyed working to find consensus. But more importantly, I enjoyed working with a large crowd to also find dissent. You want to see both sides," he noted. Pallotta said that the art of find- ing consensus is all too often a lost one. He added that it is important to respect other people's opinions and their ways of life, good or bad. "Being able to hear someone say, 'This is what I don't like,' and then look them in the eye and say, 'I don't agree, but I accept your way of thinking and I understand it. Now, let's go out and play ball,' or 'Now, let's go out and have a drink or go out and have dinner,'" he said. "The only way I know how to live is to respect other people's opinions, their views. And that's kind of where I land." "I loved all the moving parts of the mortgage industry."

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