"It's part of our overall initiative for financial education," said Denise Pease, the assistant comptroller for commercial banking, in a telephone phone interview Monday. "This is part of our public awareness."Residents can attend the conference at no charge. It will feature workshops on how to avoid foreclosure and predatory loans, keeping to a budget, and financial maintenance and protection of homes.Pease said the seminar "is primarily for people who may already have a home" but can also be helpful for first-time homebuyers.Although homeowners may be embarrassed when they cannot meet their mortgage payments, Pease said, they need to reach out to their lenders to come up with a plan so they can keep their homes."There's a sense of shame and a sense of denial," she said, noting that many homeowners do not respond to written notices from their lender when they are behind on payments. She said a homeowner can sometimes get a forebearance or have their loans modified if they explain their situation to their lender.Even if homeowners currently have no problems meeting payments but find out they may face hardship in the future if their rates are set to increase because they have an adjustable mortgage, Pease said they should contact their lender as soon as possible."It's never too early," she said. "The climate is such that if you're three years out and you don't have a prepayment penalty... get yourself into a fixed rate (mortgage)."Besides the upcoming seminar, the comptroller's office has a foreclosure helpline for homeowers going through the process. Pease said the hotline urges callers to contact their lender and sometimes refers them to non-profits that can help them hold onto their home.The hotline can be reached at 212-669-4600 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.The foreclosure conference is being held Feb. 4 at York College in Jamaica from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Those interested in attending the seminar can RSVP at 212-669-3089.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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