New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has announced $20 million in grants to fund housing counseling and legal services for homeowners across the state. The award money represents the second round of a three-year, $60 million commitment made by the Attorney General’s Office to aid struggling homeowners in New York who are fighting to avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes. Throughout New York State, 34 legal services organizations and 54 housing counseling agencies will receive funds to provide free foreclosure prevention services. The program also includes funding for two anchor partners – the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and the Empire Justice Center – that assist the Office of the Attorney General with program management, provide grantees with technical assistance and administer a robust training curriculum.
“Foreclosures are painful to any family and any community that experiences them, but we now have a proven program that is putting homeowners first and getting neighborhoods throughout the state back on track,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “My office will bring every resource to bear to help struggling families navigate out of a foreclosure crisis. With the help of our friends at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods and the Empire Justice Center, New York families will continue to have access to the resources they need, helping to ensure they have a place to call home.”
Christie Peale, Executive Director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, said, “Thanks to the commitment and support of Attorney General Schneiderman, families across the city and state have a fighting chance to stay in their homes and stabilize their lives. We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with the Attorney General as we work together to support homeowners in need.”
Kirstin Keefe, a senior staff attorney with the Empire Justice Center, said, “This new infusion of funding from Attorney General Schneiderman means housing lawyers and counselors will continue to help families across our state stay in their homes. This past year, with funding for the Attorney General, we helped tens of thousands of New Yorkers. We now have the funds to help even more others fight bureaucratic roadblocks to foreclosure that the nation’s biggest banks have promised to fix but have not yet fixed. We are delighted to continue to partner with the Attorney General to give homeowners a fighting chance.”
The Attorney General’s Office launched the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) last year using funds secured under the National Mortgage Settlement – a historic agreement that Attorney General Schneiderman, the Department of Justice, and 48 other state attorneys general reached with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicing companies. Attorney General Schneiderman was among the first attorneys general to commit a significant portion of the money won under that settlement to support housing counseling and legal service providers who assist struggling homeowners fighting to avoid foreclosure.
Today’s HOPP funding announcement brings the total commitment to date to $40 million. The second-year allocation of $20 million in grant funding will ensure that HOPP services remain available in every county across New York State. Regional funding allocations are consistent with the first-year awards, with slight increases going to those areas of the state where foreclosure filings continue to rise: Long Island, the Hudson Valley and parts of Queens and Staten Island.
A regional breakdown of funding for the second year of HOPP includes:
►Approximately $3.1 million in funding for 13 organizations on Long Island;
►Approximately $6.9 million in funding for 34 organizations in New York City;
►Approximately $1.6 million in funding for 10 organizations in the Hudson Valley;
►Approximately $1.1 million in funding for 6 organizations in western New York;
►Approximately $1.3 million in funding for 10 organizations in Monroe/Southern Tier;
►Approximately $1 million in funding for 9 organizations in northeast New York;
►Approximately $917,000 in funding for 6 organizations in mid-central New York.
The Attorney General has also released a report detailing some of the highlights of the first year of the HOPP program. The report includes a breakdown of where the nearly 20,000 New York homeowners who received support in the first year of HOPP are located, by region. It also includes information on how many homeowners applied for or received loan modifications during the first year of the program, the income ranges of borrowers served under HOPP, and the types of complaints regarding mortgage servicers that are most often cited by HOPP counselors and lawyers.
In the first 12 months of HOPP, 4,729 homeowners received support on Long Island, an area that was and remains particularly hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.
On Long Island, Martha Correa and her husband were among those who sought help. During the recession, Correa had a temporary loss of employment, and their problems were compounded when they were hit by Hurricane Sandy and suffered $20,000 in personal and property damages. The Correas tried for several months to get a loan modification on their own but were unsuccessful. In September 2013, they found their way to a HOPP grantee, the Long Island Housing Partnership (LIHP), which provides housing counseling services across Long Island. By mid-October, LIHP successfully negotiated with Citibank to get the Correas into a trial loan modification.
In Erie County, self-employed homeowner Richard Slaper fell behind on his mortgage in 2006 when he faced a serious, near-fatal medical issue. Since he was self-employed, he did not have health coverage and ran into serious financial difficulties. Eventually Slaper was able to secure disability and supplemental income from a rental unit. For several years, he attempted to work something out with his mortgage company but was unsuccessful. The bank moved to foreclosure on Slaper in 2009. He found his way to the Western New York Law Center, a HOPP grantee, in November 2012. With the Law Center's help, he was able to obtain a HAMP loan modification that lowered his interest rate to two percent, making his new monthly mortgage payments stable and affordable.
In Monroe County, Dale Cooper suffered a temporary loss of income in 2010 but regained employment in 2011. He needed a significant modification to hold on to his home. Cooper got in contact with the Empire Justice Center, a HOPP grantee, who began negotiations with Bank of America to get Cooper a permanent loan modification. Because Bank of America was also a participant in the National Mortgage Settlement – which requires the bank to offer principal reduction as part of their modification programs – Empire Justice was able to secure a loan modification for Cooper that included a $30,000 principal reduction on his mortgage.