BINGHAMTON – August 14, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, joined by housing advocates, local lawmakers, and a local homeowner, today released a new, three-year report detailing the results of his office’s recent efforts to prevent foreclosures, keep families in their homes, and rebuild communities hit hardest by the housing crash. The three programs outlined in the report—the Homeowner Protection Program, New York State Mortgage Assistance Program, and AGScamHelp.com—have helped tens of thousands of New York families, including more than 6,000 homeowners in the Southern Tier and Central New York, avoid foreclosure. The programs are funded by more than $100 million from the settlements that Attorney General Schneiderman negotiated with the nation’s largest banks following the collapse of the housing market.
The Southern Tier and Central New York have been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. According to data obtained from RealtyTrac, 36 percent of residential foreclosures in the Southern Tier were vacant properties in 2014. That number rises to 42 percent in Central New York, the highest in the state. Last year, Tioga County had the second-highest percentage of residential foreclosures for abandoned homes.
“When I first came into office five years ago, I learned that thousands of families never had the chance to speak to a lawyer during the foreclosure process,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “This report shows that my housing programs are succeeding in reaching New Yorkers most in need of foreclosure prevention and relief. I hope that we can build on this work by reaching another 50,000 families even sooner.”
Deposit resident Joseph McQuade and his wife and daughter are one example of the tens of thousands of New York families who have been helped by the Attorney General’s foreclosure prevention and relief programs. Mr. McQuade and his wife first moved into Deposit around the same time that she became pregnant with their daughter. During the depths of the recession in 2009, Mr. McQuade lost his job as a boiler operator at a manufacturing plant. He and his wife had trouble keeping up with their mortgage, eventually ending up in foreclosure last year. Thankfully, Mr. McQuade found Legal Aid of Mid-New York and started working with one of their lawyers, who fought for his family and their home. Mr. McQuade recently received a loan modification that reduced his family’s mortgage by tens of thousands of dollars.
“I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for pushing the banks to provide relief to homeowners and for supporting programs like Legal Aid of Mid-New York” said Joseph McQuade. “Now I don’t have to worry about where we are going to live or how we are going to take care of our young daughter who has autism and needs a steady, safe place to grow up.”
“Without financial support from the New York State Attorney General’s office, the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York would not have the resources to sustain HOPP, our foreclosure prevention project,” said Paul Lupia, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York. “We are very grateful for the leadership that Attorney General Schneiderman has provided New Yorkers in the area of foreclosure prevention and look forward to continuing to working closely with his staff to provide mortgage assistance relief to New York residents.”
Homeowner Protection Program
The Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), which was launched in June 2012, is a network of almost 90 housing counseling and legal services agencies that provide free, high-quality assistance to at-risk families across New York to help them avoid foreclosure.
In the past three years, HOPP has served 50,000 families statewide. OAG has ten HOPP partners in the Southern Tier and five HOPP partners in Central New York. Together with OAG’s statewide anchor partner, Empire Justice Center, these ten local partners have served 6,266 families in the region with 2,252 pending or approved loan modifications.
New York State Mortgage Assistance Program
The New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS-MAP), which began processing applications from across the state in October 2014, provides families at risk of immediately losing their homes with small loans to pay off debts that are a barrier to mortgage modification.
NYS-MAP loans, which may be as much as $40,000, help families who are struggling to avoid foreclosure to pay off mortgage arrears, delinquent second or third mortgage liens, or unpaid property tax bills. The program is funded with money from the bank settlements.
The program is modeled after a New York City-funded pilot program administered through the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN). OAG is working with CNYCN, as well as the Empire Justice Center, to assist in the operations of NYS-MAP. Both agencies are contracted by the Office of the Attorney General to assist with the administration of HOPP.
In less than a year, NYS-MAP has approved 309 loans across the state totaling more than $9.3 million. The average loan amount, statewide, is $30,371. In the Southern Tier and Central New York, NYS-MAP has approved 87 loans totaling $2,200,000.
AGScamHelp.com, launched in December 2014, is a web-based app that helps homeowners determine whether a mortgage assistance company has been vetted by a government agency. OAG urges homeowners at risk of foreclosure to work with a free, qualified housing counseling agency within HOPP. The app is supported by funds from the bank settlements.
OAG launched AGScamHelp.com in direct response to an observed increase in mortgage rescue scams in New York and across the country. According to a December 2014 report by the Center for NYC Neighborhoods and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, more than 42,000 homeowners have been conned out of $100 million nationwide.
New Yorkers have been hit particularly hard. From March 2010 to September 2014, New York homeowners submitted over 2,700 foreclosure rescue scam complaints to the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights, documenting at least $8.25 million in losses.
AGScamHelp.com has several informational features:
- Search Government-Vetted Companies: AGScamHelp.com allows consumers to search the name of an individual or company to determine if that entity is a “government-vetted” agency (that is, either a member of the Attorney General’s HOPP network or a HUD-certified counseling agency). If the company searched is not a government-vetted agency, the consumer will be told to proceed with caution and advised with several tips on how to identify signs of a foreclosure rescue scam.
- Locate Nearby Counseling Partners: The web-based app also features an interactive map that allows consumers to find the nearest Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) grantee. The Attorney General has dedicated $100 million to fund HOPP, a network of more than 85 housing counseling and legal services agencies across the state that are dedicated to providing free assistance to New Yorkers.
- Report Scams: Consumers who have already been contacted by, or are in the process of working with a company suspected of operating a foreclosure rescue scam, will also have the option to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. They will be directed to a separate page where they can complete a complaint form online. All complaints will be directed to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, and will be mediated by the Attorney General’s Office.
- Get Tips: AGScamHelp.com offers details on how to recognize signs of a foreclosure rescue scam, including samples of scam letters and other materials utilized by fraudsters to target homeowners, and provides information about recent foreclosure scams that have been the subject of enforcement actions brought by the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies.
“Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program has helped numerous local families keep their homes and avoid foreclosure,” said Binghamton Mayor Richard David. “The resources Attorney General Schneiderman has made available helped stem the tide of the foreclosure crisis and stabilize neighborhoods throughout our community.”
Attorney General Schneiderman has made combatting the housing crisis a priority of his administration. The Attorney General has also pursued relief for communities by directing $33 million from the National Mortgage Settlement to community land banks through the Community Revitalization Initiative (CRI). Land banks are nonprofit organizations that can acquire property that is tax-delinquent, tax-foreclosed, vacant, or abandoned, and return the properties to productive use. Land banks are working at the local level across New York State to rebuild and revitalize their communities.
Binghamton and the surrounding area are served by the Broome County Land Bank Corporation, which received $800,000 in the second round of funding. OAG funding is helping the Broome County Land Bank hire full-time staff and gone through a strategic planning process. Their focus is now on acquiring distressed properties for demolition, and to a smaller extent on rehabilitating properties for resale as homeownership. The Broome County Land Bank has also partnered with the City of Binghamton to collaborate on some preliminary environmental studies on a commercial site that may be converted into a healthy market for local residents.