A.G. Schneiderman: Hundreds Of Long Island Homeowners Helped By Our Assistance Programs

In 3 Months, 688 LI Homeowners Received Assistance From A.G.'s Foreclosure Prevention Program And More Than 150 Homeowners Received Sandy-Related Support

A.G. Also Announces Statewide Hotline: 1-855-HOME-456

 

MINEOLA – At a news conference today in Nassau County, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced the results of two key programs aimed at providing New Yorkers the assistance they need to keep their homes. He was joined at the event by two homeowners who received assistance from the programs. Through the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a $60 million initiative to support housing counselors and legal services providers working with homeowners at risk of foreclosure across the State of New York, 688 at-risk homeowners on Long Island received foreclosure counseling and legal representation in the program’s first three months.

In addition, Attorney General Schneiderman announced that more than 150 homeowners have received assistance through a program he established in response to Hurricane Sandy. The Sandy recovery program, launched in the wake of the devastating storm, allocated more than $750,000 to enable grantees in Long Island and New York City to serve families at risk of foreclosure due to storm related losses.

“The number of foreclosures across Long Island is troubling, but this isn’t just a matter of numbers: each foreclosure represents a devastating loss for families and communities,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I am committed to doing everything in my power to put homeowners first, and make sure they have resources available to help them keep their homes and get our neighborhoods back on track. The service providers we have supported are working on the front lines to help homeowners who have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, or victimized by the foreclosure crisis, to stay in their homes and rebuild their lives.”

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, tens of thousands of homeowners on Long Island are either in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure. According to the most recent statistics, more than 25,000 loans are in foreclosure and more than 17,000 homeowners are 90 or more days delinquent on Long Island. In addition FEMA estimates that up to 10% of all households on Long Island suffered some flooding or storm damage following Sandy.

Attorney General Schneiderman reported that in just the first three months of the Homeowner Protection Program, 688 at-risk homeowners on Long Island have received foreclosure counseling and legal representation, and roughly 3,600 have been served throughout New York State.

In September of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced funding for five legal service providers and eight housing counseling organizations serving at-risk homeowners on Long Island. For the first year of operation, over $3.1 million went to the13 organizations.

In addition, after Hurricane Sandy the Attorney General announced more than $750,000 in additional funding for seven of the organizations whose programs are expanding to address the heightened need resulting from Sandy. Through this program, grantees on Long Island have hosted or staffed more than 118 outreach events reaching out to affected homeowners, and are now providing counseling or legal representation to more than 150 families.

The organizations participating in both the HOPP program and the Attorney General’s Sandy relief program are:

  •          Community Development Corporation of Long Island
  •         Labor and Industry for Education
  •          La Fuerza Unida
  •          Long Island Housing Services
  •          Nassau County Bar Association
  •          Nassau Suffolk Law Services
  •          New York Legal Assistance Group

In addition, the following organizations received funds through the HOPP program:

  •        American Debt Resources
  •          Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk
  •          Greenpath
  •          The Hispanic Brotherhood
  •          Long Island Housing Partnership
  •          Touro Law Center

HOPP counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need in order to submit applications for loan modifications; an outcome that usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward but which can take more than a year to negotiate.

For those affected by Sandy, grantees are working on behalf of homeowners providing direct advocacy with insurance companies, FEMA, and other disaster-related benefit providers. Helping homeowners to collect benefits in a timely fashion is critical to ensuring that those who were not at risk prior to the storm do not slip into mortgage default or foreclosure as they work to repair their homes and their lives.

One such homeowner, Timothy Tolan, joined the Attorney General today to tell his story. Tolan has been a New York City fire fighter for 26 years. He lives in East Rockaway Long Island, and was working as a first responder the day Sandy hit. Having been through Hurricane Irene, he knew even before got home that the damage would be severe. “I had four feet of water in my living room”, said homeowner Timothy Tolan. “The place was gutted”.

As a result of damage from Sandy, coming on top of an already depressed housing market, Tolan is in need of a mortgage modification. Fortunately he found his way to the Community Development Corporation of Long Island (CDC-LI), a HOPP grantee that is also funded under the Attorney General Sandy initiative. CDC-LI successfully advocated for Tolan and convinced his mortgage company to release his advance payment from the insurance company. Now CDC-LI is working with Tolan to submit a full loan modification request to the mortgage company in hopes of improving his loan terms. “I have to re-build my house and I am getting ready to retire soon,” said Tolan. “This modification will be crucial for me.”

“We are so fortunate to be in a state where the Attorney General has made the work we do a top priority”, said Joan Lafemina, Homeowner Services Program Manager at CDC-LI. “Funds we received from the HOPP and Sandy programs have been a critical resource that allowed us to expand our services to homeowners throughout Long Island.”

Patricia Dupont, a nurse practitioner and single mother who lives in Elmont NY, knows just how important access to housing counselors can be. Dupont fell on hard times after a suffering through a string of unfortunate events including the loss of her husband and a terrible car accident that left her on disability for three months.

Dupont estimates that she made at least ten separate attempts to negotiate a loan modification with her bank on her own, but was constantly given the runaround. Patricia’s luck changed when she found her way to Labor and Industry for Education (LIFE), a HOPP grantee that provides both housing counseling and legal services to struggling homeowners. LIFE’s counselors took over the case and after several months of work, they convinced the lender to provide Dupont with a loan modification. Her mortgage interest rate has dropped from 6.25% to 2% and her monthly mortgage payment has dropped from $2700 down to $2200 per month.

“I am so grateful to LIFE for helping me through this time,” said homeowner Patricia Dupont. “Without them, I don’t know if would have been able to keep my home. I want to thank everyone at LIFE for helping me and personally thank Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for making sure groups like LIFE can keep doing what they are doing.”

The Attorney General's office has also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling and Sandy support. By calling1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified HOPP counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours. The hotline is based on a model program administered by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) that has been operational in NYC for the past 3 years. During that time, the Hotline has generated more than 15,000 calls from consumers struggling to stay in their homes. The Attorney General has subcontracted with CNYNC to assist in managing the statewide hotline.

“Attorney General Schneiderman is helping to level the playing field for homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. The HOPP initiative and the Consumer Hotline are a huge resource for struggling homeowners on Long Island and across New York”, said Kirsten Keefe, Senior Attorney at the Empire Justice Center.

The funds awarded for this program were the result of a competitive Request For Applications process and represent a portion of the millions of dollars that New York received as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement that was announced in February 2012 between the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 states, and the federal government over foreclosure abuses. 

Today’s announcement is the latest part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s multi-pronged strategy to stem foreclosures, provide relief to struggling homeowners and hold accountable those responsible for the mortgage crisis. In 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.  

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