Sections

Foreclosure crisis hits home

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As the mortgage foreclosure crisis continues to spread throughout the region this season, City Comptroller William Thompson’s office has announced that 2,350 individuals have called the office’s Foreclosure Prevention Hotline since April (as of the end of 2007), in search of assistance to help them avoid the loss of their homes. “It’s extremely sad that at a time of year when people should be enjoying the holidays with family and friends, they are instead fearing the loss of their homes,” Thompson said. “This month, we have continued to hear so many of their stories, as they make difficult choices about which bills to pay, and often have had to forgo giving gifts so they can hold onto their homes.” Two hundred fifty-two individuals from Brooklyn called the Comptroller’s Foreclosure Hotline, about one third of the total calls made. The comptroller’s office received the most calls from the Brooklyn zip codes 11236 (35), 11221 (22), 11208 (19), and 11234 (18), which encompass the neighborhoods of Canarsie, Bushwick, Flatlands, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, New Lots and East New York. “It’s good to see our City Comptroller taking on this issue and using the power of his office to help combat the problem,” said Councilmember Erik M. Dilan in a statement regarding the foreclosure helpline. “I call on every city and state official to create a helpline initiative within their own office as a clearinghouse of information for the many government services available to assist troubled homeowners.” Thompson believes that more than 15,000 families could be at risk of losing their homes in foreclosure by the end of 2008. Just before Christmas, RealityTrac reported that 2,848 city households have already filed for foreclosure in November. “As we enter this new year, we must all resolve to work together to help our neighbors in need,” Thompson said. “These foreclosures not only will close the doors of opportunity for countless New Yorkers, but will adversely impact our neighborhoods as a whole.” The comptroller’s Office Community Action Center has tried to educate and inform constituents about the dangers of subprime loans and how to prevent homes from going into foreclosure. Thompson’s office has worked to direct constituents facing eviction to the proper resources including counselors who are Housing and Urban Development certified or to organizations such as the Home Ownership Preservation Foundation (HOPE). “It’s more of an education program. We’re trying to get the word out,” said Kristen McMahon, a spokeswoman for the comptroller’s office. “People who call us are worried that their interest rates will go up. Not every call that we receive turns into a case that we follow up with.” According to McMahon, many of the people who have called the helpline have indicated that they entered Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) loans with low initial payments and affordable monthly payments. After a couple of years, interest rate and payment changes began to take effect, with ARM interest rates climbing to more than 16 percent in some cases. As a result, the monthly payments for these mortgages would increase by hundreds of dollars, resulting in increases of thousands of dollars each year. Additionally, the comptroller’s office has launched radio and television advertisements, held a series of Banking Days community forums throughout the boroughs, published a Foreclosure Prevention Guide and established the “Save Our Homes” initiative, in which Thompson has been working with neighborhood organizations and clergy, visiting churches to disseminate guides and speak to religious communities about the issue. “We will continue this fight,” Thompson said. “This prevention guide identifies ways to prevent foreclosure and lists vital resources for people in their neighborhoods, in the city, and in the state. There is an urgent need for this crisis to be rapidly addressed at many levels, because it affects every one of us, if not a family member than a friend or a neighbor.” The foreclosure prevention hotline can be reached at 212-669-4600 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Foreclosure Prevention Guide can be downloaded at www.comptroller.nyc.gov.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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