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Jax. Heights group to aid South Asian homeowners

Chhaya CDC, a homeowners counseling group in Jackson Heights, has organized a forum in Jamaica April 25 to get South Asians talking about their stake in the housing crunch. The event is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. at Fatema Tandoori Restaurant, 167-09 Hillside Ave.The organization pointed out that Astoria, Corona, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Sunnyside and Woodside are communities where a high volume of foreclosures and the highest concentrations of South Asians in the city coincide. But many of the South Asians affected by the subprime crisis in these neighborhoods are afraid to come forward, the group said."Because it's a newer immigrant community, there's some mistrust," said Seema Agnani, director of Chhaya. "There's [also] a fear to talk in public about finances."The problem can be exacerbated by the insular nature of these communities, said Program Director Afreen Alam."They tend to turn to people they trust," Alam said. "It might be the broker that got them in trouble to begin with."Between 2002 and 2005, the ratio of home purchases that were subprime loans soared in these neighborhoods, according to a report by New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. Jamaica and Hollis saw an 81 percent increase in subprime loans during that period. Woodside and Sunnyside subprimes climbed 67.3 percent and Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona all had increases of more than 65 percent in the number of subprime loans.But all this is not terribly useful to the South Asian community, Agnani said, because the data cannot be broken down to reflect their role in the crisis.Alam quoted a Queens-based Bangladeshi newspaper, Janmobhumi, which estimated 200 Bangladeshi homeowners had experienced foreclosures in 2007 and anticipated 700 would undergo foreclosure this year. Beyond that, she said, little information exists."The first forum will give us a sense of where others are at," Agnani said, noting she hopes to hear from homeowners, landlords, tenants and even real estate brokers.Chhaya opened in late 2007, but Agnani said the organization has been around since 2000. For more information, call 718-478-3848 or visit www.chhayacdc.org.Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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