New York AG Pledges $1 Million Toward Foreclosure Prevention
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced that his office will fund $1 million in foreclosure prevention services to aid New Yorkers struggling through the foreclosure crisis. Schneiderman has issued a Request for Applications (RFA) seeking bids from non-profit legal services and legal aid organizations to provide direct legal services to homeowners in foreclosure or at imminent risk of foreclosure. “As our state faces another tight budget year, we must be creative and aggressive in our efforts to support working families who are struggling to stay in their homes,” said AG Schneiderman. “This funding will provide thousands of New Yorkers with the legal expertise they desperately need to defend their rights and avoid falling prey to unscrupulous mortgage servicers or foreclosure mill law firms filing fabricated or robosigned documents. My office will continue to use every tool available to us to protect homeowners and all vulnerable New Yorkers.” An average of one in 10 mortgages is at risk of foreclosure in New York State. The approximate number of individuals living in homes that are either in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure (based on typical household size for each distressed mortgage) exceeds the populations of Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse combined. Schneiderman has made it a top priority of his administration to hold accountable those whose misconduct led to the collapse of the housing market and to provide significant relief to distressed homeowners. The last round of federal stimulus funding for the New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program ran out on Dec. 31, 2011, and the state has not fully made up the shortfall. The Attorney General’s funding will allow critical services that would otherwise be lost to continue across the state. The $1 million allocation will be funded by unspent dollars from a 2006 settlement between the Attorney General’s Office and Ameriquest Mortgage, a settlement that came about when Ameriquest engaged in predatory and illegal lending practices to sell and refinance mortgages, including misrepresenting and failing to disclose loan terms, charging excessive loan origination fees, and inflating appraisals to qualify borrowers for loans. The settlement required Ameriquest to pay the participating states $295 million in restitution, roughly $22 million of which went to New York and its homeowners. Given the urgency of the foreclosure crisis, Attorney General Schneiderman has directed an expedited RFA process, which could result in awards for funding in as soon as eight weeks.