Non-profit groups that provide counseling and legal services to homeowners at risk of foreclosure and a number of lawmakers are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include $25 million in the state budget to continue the statewide Foreclosure Prevention Services Program. They held a news conference this morning, and advocates are giving lawmakers keys attached to tags that detail the number of homes at risk for foreclosure in their districts’ counties and the potential economic impact.
“A key is a symbol of the sanctity, safety and security of the home,” said Justin Haines, director of foreclosure prevention at Legal Services NYC – Bronx. “It represents the hard-earned down payments made to the American dream of home-ownership and also the equity that’s slowly slipping away.”
Cuomo did not include money for the program in his proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins April 1. Without funding, the Foreclosure Prevention Services Program will shut down. The state has spent roughly $50 million in the past four years for 120 non-profits statewide that provide housing counseling and legal assistance. They have helped more than 80,000 homeowners and at least 14,000 homes, preserving more than $3.4 billion in property value and tax base.
Statewide last year, 345,000 homeowners received a 90-day notice of serious delinquency, according to a new report from the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project. Roughly 95,000 of them were in New York City. For every foreclosure filed, there are 14 homeowners in serious delinquency.
“These figures demonstrate what advocates already know, we’re not halfway through the foreclosure crisis,” Haines said. “And recent estimates indicate that it could take as long as 14 years to work through the current foreclosure docket in the courts.”
State legislation adopted several years ago gives homeowners whose residence is being foreclosed on to sit with representatives of the lending institution in hopes of restructuring the mortgage so they can stay in their home, said Sen. Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx.
“The only way this program is going to be effective, the only way we’re going to stop foreclosures is making sure that that individual, with a stack full of paperwork, sitting next to a bank attorney, has the representation of people behind me here today,” Klein said at the news conference, referring to help from the non-profit groups.
Another recently adopted state law requires lending institutions to maintain foreclosed properties, Klein said.
“A lot of these banks are very quick to foreclose. But then when they own these properties, they take title to these properties, they don’t want to maintain these properties,” he said.