Barron Hosts Mortgage Woes Forum

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[The Big Story]


Charles Barron, the dynamic New York City councilmember from Brooklyn was joined by his fiery chief of staff Viola Plummer at a major forum last week to denounce predatory mortgage brokers that have pushed thousands of homeowner to the brink—many people are now at risk of losing their homes as the mortgage market continues to collapse.

Brooklyn is said to be the number one community in New York City in terms of foreclosures due to sub-prime lending; foreclosure rates have soared.

It’s estimated that over 20% of sub-prime mortgages that were originated in 2005 will end up in foreclosure. Between 1998 to 2001, New York State ranked 38th with an average foreclosure rate of 9.7 percent. It now ranks in the top 5 for foreclosures.

Home foreclosure is at an all time high across the United States and is affecting people all over the country. Trustees of pension boards have been congregating with elected officials to figure out solution and possible creative ideas to use pension dollars to keep people in their homes.

In New York the main areas targeted include Central Brooklyn, Southeast Queens, parts of the Bronx and Staten Island. These are areas where homeowners receive disproportionate levels of sub- prime loan foreclosures.
Some of the victims are referred to lawyers through a mortgage company or bank; the lawyers actually work against the homeowner’s best interest. Some people are informed that they have a fixed rate mortgage but end up getting skyrocketing interest rates years later.

Council member Barron noted that the crises is disproportionately impacting African American and Latino communities. He called for the government to intervene vigorously to ensure that the loans are restructured and that people get to keep their homes.

Barron noted that with a $2.7 trillion national budget; a $60 billion New York City budget; and, a $ 20 billion New York State budget, more can be done to help homeowners that now face losing their homes. “All for the love of money our homes are being stripped away from us,” Barron said. He also called on buyers to hire a private lawyer and take time to include some of the community delegates with them before signing and closing on a home.

The Foreclosure Forum was held at P.S 13 in the East New York section of Brooklyn, where dozens of heart broken residents searched for answers and solutions. Thousands of residents are faced with losing their homes this holiday season. In fact many have already been put out on the streets because of this vicious foreclosure cycle.

New York City comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. also appeared at the forum as did New York Housing Preservation Department (HPD) representative William S. Carbine to inform the community of the key strategies in preventing, surviving and resolving foreclosures.

Sub-prime lending, where home buyers with credit challenges are given higher interest rate loans than what they are entitled to was a major topic of discussion. Blacks and Latinos are highly targeted, the elected officials said.

Washington Mutual bank has been identified as a prime player in this mortgage scandal. Schemes such as “zero down payment,” “too good to be true refinancing,” and “deed theft,” were discussed at the forum, and impacts of the schemes, including higher than average foreclosure rates.

Senior citizens and church pastors were some of the victims of these schemes; it was sad to see them at the forum. All are faced with the threat and grim reality of losing their homes.

Many attendees outlined how they are fighting back.

Karen Smith, who has worked at a bank for 10 years, owns a building in Park Slope. She recalled how she was threatened with foreclosure due to a transferred loan. Smith has filed a motion against the foreclosure claiming the bank the loan was transferred to, only owns the note and not the home, and that they can only file a judgment against the homeowner. Smith went to State Supreme Court and filed a motion to dismiss the foreclosure.

Barron’s chief of staff Plummer said, “The government has got to make the banks halt all foreclosures immediately.” She said many homeowners’ mortgages will double and or triple.

The Federal Reserve board has more than enough money to protect home owners that have been victimized, she said, adding that the New York City Council should also introduce legislation to save homeowners.

New York City comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and Councilmen Charles Barron are committed to putting an end to the vicious foreclosure that affects so many families in the black and Latino communities.

Comptroller Thompson revealed that his office has over 700 active cases that he is working to resolve. In some cases, he wants variable rate loans to be converted to fixed rates, and to have the loans extended. Thompson urged people to call his mortgage foreclosure prevention helpline at (212) 669 4600 if they are facing foreclosure. He said he will meet with the New York State Comptroller next month to devise a joint strategy. He’s now working with Association of community Organizations for Reform Now, (A.C.O.R.N) with homeowners to help them protect their homes from foreclosure.

Carbine, the Assistant Commissioner Neighborhood Preservation at HPD announced plans for a board meeting to fund local community groups so that foreclosure victims will be provided with one-on-one support. There are also plans to hire 22 lawyers that will be working in the home owner’s interest pro bono. Yet with already 507 foreclosures this year, more lawyers may be needed.

The forum was held on December 19.


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