New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced his office’s rollout of a new series of public service announcements aimed at highlighting free legal assistance and housing counseling available to New Yorkers who are struggling to fight foreclosure. The statewide advertisements are intended to publicize the Attorney General’s Homeowner Protection Program, a $60 million initiative to support housing counselors and legal services providers working with homeowners statewide.
“Providing a struggling family with legal counseling to navigate the foreclosure process can mean the difference between that family keeping their home or being displaced. That’s why my office has prioritized funding free legal services and mortgage counseling for distressed New Yorkers in need of support,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Through these announcements, we’re empowering at-risk homeowners with the knowledge of how to connect with professionals who can help them assert their rights. My office will continue to do everything in its power to put homeowners first, including making sure they have the resources available to say ‘No’ to foreclosure.”
The Attorney General office’s public service announcement, titled “Signs,” informs homeowners of the free foreclosure counseling and legal representation available through the Homeowner Protection Program to aid those who are at risk of foreclosure. The ad also encourages homeowners to call the statewide foreclosure hotline at 855-HOME-456 and visit www.AGHomeHelp.com to connect with organizations and agencies in their area who can provide foreclosure prevention services. It will air statewide in both English and Spanish for an indefinite period.
Using a portion of New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement, in June 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced the launch of the Homeowner Protection Program, his office’s commitment of $60 million over three years to fund housing counseling and legal services for struggling New York homeowners. Through this program, 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies statewide have received funding to provide free foreclosure prevention services.
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.
In just the first five months of reporting on the HOPP program, roughly 7,400 New York homeowners have been counseled through the HOPP program. Of the total number of families receiving assistance, 2,570 homeowners or close to 35% have pending or formally approved loan modifications thanks to assistance from one of the HOPP organizations.
“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 across the state. Thanks to the Attorney General’s commitment, these families will have swift access to high quality advocates, which in turn, will greatly improve their chances at negotiating the preservation of their homes,” said Kirsten Keefe, Foreclosure Prevention Coordinator at the Empire Justice Center.
This past January, Attorney General Schneiderman also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling and Sandy support. By calling 1-855-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.
“The Attorney General continues to tackle the foreclosure crisis from all sides” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the CNYCN. “We must have qualified professionals who can guide families through the mortgage modification process, and homeowners need an easy way to access those services. HOPP and the hotline are two essential tools that can help New Yorkers fight foreclosure.”
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.