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Post date: January 16 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Details Results For Homeowner Protection Program In Hudson Valley

In 3 Months, 731 Hudson Valley Homeowners received Assistance From A.G.'s Program

Announces Statewide Consumer Hotline To Connect Homeowners To A HOPP Counselor Within 24 Hours

Schneiderman: Funding Housing Counseling And Legal Services Has Proven Successful, And Helpful For Families

Video of the Attorney General’s remarks is available online here:

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the results of the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), a $60 million initiative to support housing counselors and legal services providers working with homeowners at risk of foreclosure across the State of New York. Attorney General Schneiderman reported that in just the first three months of the program, 731 at-risk homeowners in the Hudson Valley have received assistance, and roughly 3,600 have been served throughout New York State.

“The rise in foreclosures across the Hudson Valley is troubling, but this isn’t just a matter of numbers: each foreclosure represents a devastating loss for families and communities. This program is putting homeowners first, and it is getting our neighborhoods back on track,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Funding housing counseling and legal services is an essential step to help more families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has hurt communities in every corner of this state, our Homeowner Protection Program will ensure that homeowners get the expert guidance and legal representation they need to protect their rights before it's too late. ”

According to the most recent data collected by the New York Federal Reserve, more than 13,500 in the Hudson Valley were in foreclosure, and an additional 11,000 families were delinquent on their mortgage payments. In June of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced funding for 2 legal service providers and 8 housing counseling organizations serving at-risk homeowners in the Hudson Valley. For the first year of operation, $1.7 million went to the 10 Hudson Valley based organizations.
HOPP counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need to submit applications for loan modifications; an outcome that usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward but which can take more than a year to negotiate. Of the 731 borrowers who have received counseling in the Hudson Valley through the HOPP program, an impressive 228 ‑ or more than 31% ‑ are already in active negotiations or have been formally offered loan modifications.

Statewide the numbers are just as encouraging. Of the roughly 3600 families counseled throughout New York, 1500 homeowners ‑ or close to 42% ‑ have pending or formally approved loan modifications thanks to assistance from one of the HOPP grantees.

“I want to thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership in addressing the foreclosure crisis in the Hudson Valley and across New York State," said Mary Linge, Director of Homeownership & Education for Hudson River Housing's HOPP program. "The AG’s HOPP program will impact many residents in this community, and our agency is ready and willing to help any homeowner at risk of foreclosure.”

Bruce Van De Veerdonk, a small business owner and father of three who lives in the Hudson Valley is just one example of how this program is helping to change the lives of struggling New Yorkers. After being put into a variable rate mortgage that eventually rose to an 11% interest rate, Van De Veerdonk couldn’t keep up with his mortgage payments and feared he might lose his home. His attempts to negotiate directly with the lender were rejected. Eventually Van De Veerdonk found his way to the Putnam County Housing Corporation where he received assistance from a HOPP counselor.

In November 2012, Van De Veerdonk was notified that he had been approved for both a principal write-down and an interest rate reduction under the NMS. The bank reduced his principal by $23,000 and locked his new interest rate at 2%. His payments which were $3200 at the height are now $2300.

Homeowner Bruce Van De Veerdonk said, “I was drowning in mortgage payments and close to losing my home. I had already attempted to get a loan modification on my own and was denied. But with the help of the Putnam County Housing Corporation and the Homeowner Protection Program, I was able to reduce the interest on my loan and decrease my principal payments by $23,000. Attorney General Schneiderman's HOPP program is priceless, and I can't thank him enough for his efforts to help people like me. Who knows where I'd be today without his assistance."

Brian Watkins has been working with Hudson River Housing to secure a loan modification. Watkins was an insurance salesman whose business had suffered due to the struggling economy. After cashing in IRAs, he was forced to accept part-time employment to make ends meet. Hudson River Housing referred his case to Legal Services of the Hudson Valley which worked with him to obtain a new loan modification. Today, Watkins' payments are down from $2,600 to $2,000 a month, and he was able to stay in his home.

Homeowner Brian Watkins said, "Without the assistance of Attorney General Schneiderman, Hudson River Housing and Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, I would surely be homeless today. My part-time income was not enough to cover my mortgage and living expenses and I was ready to throw in the towel and let the bank foreclose on my home. I can't say enough wonderful things about the services these organizations offer to struggling homeowners like myself."

Attorney General Schneiderman also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling. By calling 1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified HOPP counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours. The hotline is based on a model program administered by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN) that has been operational in NYC for the past 3 years. During that time, the Hotline has generated more than 15,000 calls from consumers struggling to stay in their homes. The AG has subcontracted with CNYCN to assist in managing the state wide hotline.

“The Attorney General is really tackling the foreclosure crisis from all sides” said Christie Peale, Executive Director of the CNYCN. “You have to have qualified professionals to guide families through the mortgage modification process, but you also need an easy way for homeowners to access those services. The combination of the HOPP program and the consumer hotline are exactly the tools that New Yorkers need”.

The funds awarded for this program were the result of a competitive Request For Applications process and represent a portion of the millions of dollars that New York received as a result of the National Mortgage Servicing Settlement that was announced in February 2012 between the five largest mortgage servicing banks, 49 states, and the federal government over foreclosure abuses. 

The combined 10 organizations in the Hudson Valley that have received funding under the Attorney General’s HOPP Program began providing services in October 2012.

Legal services and housing counseling funded through New York’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program have become an integral part of the foreclosure process in New York State. Funding for the program was set to expire on April 1 of this year, but the Attorney General provided $15 million from the national mortgage settlement to extend it until October 1. Attorney General Schneiderman's Homeowner Protection Program will replace the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program when it expires and ensure that these critical services will continue to be funded for at least three more years.

New York’s comprehensive foreclosure prevention law entitles homeowners to a 90 day pre-foreclosure notice before a lender can begin a foreclosure action. This notice is required to include a list of at least five nonprofit housing counseling agencies that can assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure. These organizations can sometimes help homeowners obtain loan modifications from lenders at foreclosure settlement conferences. Without funding for the Attorney General Schneiderman's Homeowner Protection Program, most of these agencies would lose the resources necessary to fulfill these critical obligations to homeowners. 

In addition to penalties for past abuses, New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement includes direct relief to victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct and billions of dollars nationwide for loan modifications, including principal reductions for struggling homeowners. The settlement, which imposes strong national standards for mortgage servicing, also fulfilled Attorney General Schneiderman’s demand that he retain the right to bring legal action over misconduct that has not yet been fully investigated.

Today’s announcement is the latest part of Attorney General Schneiderman’s multi-pronged strategy to stem foreclosures, provide relief to struggling homeowners and hold accountable those responsible for the mortgage crisis. Earlier this year, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity.

In 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman introduced the Foreclosure Fraud Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for knowingly filing false documents in a foreclosure proceeding, or overseeing employees who engage in such activity.

Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman was appointed by President Obama to co-chair the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. This joint investigation brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), HUD, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, several state law enforcement officials, and other federal agencies to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. It builds upon ongoing state and federal investigations, while also launching new ones.

More information on today's announcement of awards for the Attorney General's Homeowner Protection Program is available online at: