State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today that his office has committed $60 million over three years to provide housing counseling and legal services to struggling homeowners in the state. The Homeowner Protection Program is giving a total of $16.1 million to 35 legal-services groups and 59 housing counseling agencies to provide free foreclosure-prevention services. Another $3.9 million will go toward training, technical assistance and other support services to help homeowners in foreclosure.
There are more than 140,000 mortgages in New York that are “seriously delinquent,” meaning they are in foreclosure or more than 90 days in arrears, according to data collected by the New York Federal Reserve. Some of the hardest hit communities are in the Hudson Valley, Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island.
“Funding housing counseling and legal services is an essential first step to help more families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has hurt communities in every corner of this state, we must ensure that homeowners get the expert guidance and legal representation they need to protect their rights before it’s too late.”
In recent years, nearly half of homeowners facing foreclosure have gone through the process without an attorney and 63 percent have been unrepresented at settlement conferences, according to Schneiderman’s office. Many people also lack access to housing counselors. State law requires that homeowners receive a 90-day pre-foreclosure notice that includes a list of at least five nonprofit housing counseling agencies that can assist homeowners.
Funding for the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program was scheduled to expire April 1 of this year, but Schneiderman provided $15 million from the national mortgage settlement to extend it until Oct. 1. The attorney general’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program will replace that program when it expires. The National Mortgage Settlement includes direct relief to victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and money for loan modifications.
Schneiderman was appointed by President Barack Obama in January to chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a joint investigation involving multiple federal agencies and several state law-enforcement officials to investigate wrongdoing that contributed to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.
Read on for information on how to contact local housing-assistance agencies: