A.G. Schneiderman Announces Capital Region Results Of Homeowner Protection Program In First 15 Months

740 Homeowners Served In Capital Region, 263 With Approved Or Pending Loan Modifications

A.G. Details New Legislation To Address “Zombie Properties” And Increase Number Of Land Banks Statewide

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TROY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) has served 23,760 New Yorkers statewide in less than a year and half, resulting in 6,660 approved and pending loan modifications. Of the 23,760 New York homeowners who have been served by HOPP in the past 15 months, 740 reside in the Capital Region. In addition, of the 6,660 approved and pending loan modifications statewide, 263 are in the Capital Region.

Since October 2012, HOPP has allocated significant funding to 36 legal services organizations and 56 housing counseling agencies dedicated to providing free foreclosure prevention services to struggling homeowners.

In an announcement today at Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program, Inc. (TRIP) in Troy, a HOPP grantee, Attorney General Schneiderman also detailed the impact of his proposed legislation to increase the number of land banks in New York State from 10 to 20, which will be introduced by Assembly Member William Magnarelli. In separate legislation outlined by the Attorney General today, lenders would be required to take responsibility for “zombie properties”-- thousands of abandoned homes around the state that are vacant and cause great harm to communities. That bill will also create a statewide registry of zombie properties, so municipalities will be able to track abandoned homes and enforce local property maintenance codes.

“With a renewed commitment to providing resources for homeowners and communities across our State, we’re working to combat the devastating impact of the housing crisis,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. After a year, our Homeowner Protection Program is getting real results and helping New Yorkers in danger of losing their homes. With new ‘zombie properties’ and land bank legislation, the next step is to take the burdens off our cities and towns, and help them recover from an epidemic of vacant properties.By rehabilitating towns still reeling from the housing market collapse, we can ensure that all New Yorkers can feel safe and secure in their homes.

In addition, with our proposed ‘zombie properties’ and land bank legislation, we are working to help the other victims of the mortgage crisis: our communities. By rehabilitating towns still reeling from the housing market collapse, we can ensure that all New Yorkers can feel safe and secure in their homes.”

Hillary Lamishaw, Director of Community Development for TRIP, said, “The HOPP program has helped hundreds of families get help at no cost in just the past year and half”, said Hilary Lamishaw, Director of Community Affairs for TRIP (Troy Rehabilitation & Improvement Program). “My organization and the dozens of others around the state of New York funded under HOPP are making a real difference thanks to these desperately needed resources, and we have Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to thank for them.” 

Homeowner I-Asia White said, "I am very grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for supporting this program. If it were not for Legal Aid of Northeastern New York, I would not have known how to navigate this process. Legal Aid has given me the knowledge I need to advocate for myself."

State Senator Neil Breslin said, "The negative impact vacant properties and foreclosures have on communities is far-reaching. It puts a serious strain on our neighborhoods. Whether it be lost revenue for our cities or the public safety concerns for our residents, it is imperative we find ways to help families stay in their homes. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his work on the Homeowner Protection Program to help people and families in need."

Assemblymember John McDonald said, "As a former Mayor, I truly appreciate the efforts of the Attorney General in this effort. The American dream today continues to be about homeownership but sadly individuals have been misled in many instances which has caused difficult situations and homes to be lost and families to be hurt. The agenda and programs put forth by the Attorney General address the mortgage situations many individuals are saddled with and at the same time, programs such as management of Zombie properties and Land Banks address not only individual properties but communities. Home ownership makes for strong neighborhoods and for a better community and I support the Attorney Generals efforts in this regard."

Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino said, “The unscrupulous actions that led to the collapse of the mortgage industry have had a devastating and long lasting effect on local economies throughout the nation. Unfortunately, many homeowners not directly involved have suffered the consequences through falling home values compounded by higher jobless rates and an overall stagnant economy. This has placed many homeowners on the brink of falling behind on their obligations and descending into foreclosure making the Homeowner Protection Program a vital service that can help homeowners get back onto stable ground. I want to commend the Attorney General for establishing this program that seeks to assist those previously preyed upon by unscrupulous lenders, prevent future abuses in the mortgage industry, and promote homeownership and individual responsibility.” 

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia said, "I'm proud to be a partner in Attorney General Schneiderman's efforts to address the scourge of 'Zombie Properties' in Troy and across the State. The Homeowner Protection Program, coupled with these legislative proposals, will go a long way towards helping New Yorkers recover from the housing crisis."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, "Our partnership with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's Office will help bolster Albany's recovery from the housing crisis. It is our goal to help keep people in their homes and reduce the number of blighted and abandoned properties."

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said, "I am pleased to support Attorney General Schneiderman's Homeowner Protection Program, which provides counseling and assistance to those at risk of foreclosure. This program, along with the Attorney General's efforts to prevent foreclosed homes from falling into disrepair, will protect neighborhoods in Schenectady and across New York State." 

In October 2012, the Attorney General’s Office launched HOPP, a three-year commitment of $60 million to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. HOPP counselors provide at-risk mortgage holders with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance in preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need to submit applications for loan modifications. This process usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward, but it can take more than a year to negotiate.

Along with providing legal assistance to New York homeowners recovering from the foreclosure crisis, Attorney General Schneiderman has also proposed new legislation to help localities statewide that are still struggling. One of the Attorney General’s bills would change state law to increase the maximum allowable number of land banks from 10 to 20. Many cities do not have land banks but have a critical need for the kind of community redevelopment that land banks can make possible. With this expansion, this valuable resource will reach even more communities in need.

The Attorney General’s other legislation would address the problem of so-called zombie properties. Too often, when a homeowner falls behind on mortgage payments and receives a notice of arrears or a foreclosure notice, the homeowner abandons the property. Many families may not understand that they have the right to remain in their home until a judge declares the foreclosure complete, which can take years. At the same time, there is evidence that lenders are actually slowing down the foreclosure process, and in some cases, seeking court orders to cancel the foreclosure action in the middle of the process. With no one maintaining these derelict properties, they become vulnerable to crime, decay, vandalism and arson. Furthermore, these zombie homes decrease the property value of neighboring homes and become an enormous burden for local code enforcement and emergency service providers.

An epidemic of zombie homes has impacted communities statewide, including in the Capital Region. Across the state, RealtyTrac estimates more than 15,000 properties to be zombie foreclosures – in the Capital Region, approximately 1,100 residential properties are likely zombie foreclosures.

The bill in development by the Attorney General’s office would close the current loophole, changing state law to make lenders responsible for delinquent properties soon after they are abandoned – not at the end of a lengthy foreclosure process. It would also create a statewide registry for zombie properties, so municipalities will be able to track abandoned homes and enforce local property maintenance codes.

Homeowners who are in need of assistance are encouraged to call the Attorney General’s statewide foreclosure hotline at 855-HOME-456 and visit www.AGHomeHelp.com to connect with organizations and agencies in their area that can provide foreclosure prevention services.

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