Push to renew expiring foreclosure prevention law

Homeowners facing foreclosure may be able to keep some of the tools the state legislature created after the financial crisis for five more years.

With many in the Bronx still not having recovered from the 2008–2009 recession, new legislation in Albany would keep lenders required to provide notice of foreclosure and mandatory settlement conferences for all home loans.

These protections will expire in February 2015, and for home owners facing foreclosure, this could mean the death knell for their dreams.

Senator Jeff Klein was joined by Brooklyn Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein on Friday, June 6 on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse to announce legislation to extend the foreclosure protections passed by the state legislature in 2009.

The Assembly passed the legislation on June 2, and the state Senate on Tuesday, June 10, with it now awaiting Gov. Cuomo’s signature.

The legislators also released a report stating that 80 percent of the neighborhoods most impacted by foreclosures are largely minority communities.

Helping whole communities

“With nearly 30,000 New York City homeowners currently facing foreclosure, the extension of foreclosure notifications and settlement conferences are critical to keeping the vast majority of these homeowners in their homes,” said Klein.

He noted that foreclosures “take a toll on entire neighborhoods and can destroy otherwise safe, beautiful areas.”

Justin Haines, director of the foreclosure prevention unit at Legal Services NYC, said that if the past six years showed anything, “it is that banks and non-bank servicers are not interested in approving affordable home-saving solutions like loan modifications.”

“In 2013 in the Bronx, more foreclosures were filed than in either 2009 or 2010, what we believed to be the height of the financial crisis,” said Haines. “For those who think the foreclosure crisis is over or behind us, it isn’t.”

Kirsten Keefe, senior attorney at Empire Justice Center, noted that “In the first year of the mandatory settlement conferences, New York’s default judgment rate dropped from 90 percent to 10 percent, proving that the settlement conferences are a critical measure to ensure justice for New York homeowners.”

Voices of the afflicted

“As a homeowner negotiating a loan modification, settlement conferences were absolutely essential to keeping my home,” said Williamsbridge homeowner Yvonne Mitchell. “I am thrilled to hear that these critical protections for homeowners will continue beyond the upcoming expiration date. No homeowner should have to forgo the opportunity to keep their home.”

Soundview homeowner Evelyn Rodriguez said her settlement conference and the legal help from Legal Services NYC – Bronx during that conference made all of the difference. She urged those facing foreclosure to contact Legal Services.

“If it wasn’t for them,” she noted, “I truly believe that we would not have been able to keep our house.”

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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