A.G. Schneiderman Highlights Success Of Programs Aimed At Revitalizing Communities Across New York State

Homeowner Protection Program, Mortgage Assistance Program, And AGScamHelp.com Have Helped Tens Of Thousands Of New York Families Stay In Their Homes

More Than $6 Million Approved For Housing Loans Through Mortgage Assistance Program

Schneiderman: I Will Continue To Fight For Justice For the Victims Of The Housing Crisis

PLATTSBURGHAttorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today highlighted the success of several programs created by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) during the past five years to help New York families keep their homes. These three programs – the Homeowner Protection Program, New York State Mortgage Assistance Program, and AGScamHelp.com – have helped tens of thousands of homeowners in the North Country and across New York State avoid foreclosure.

“When I took office in 2011, I made a commitment to rebuild and revitalize New York communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Thanks to the success of the Homeowner Protection Program, Mortgage Assistance Program, and AGScamHelp.com, my office has been able to help 43,000 families—including hundreds in the North Country—stay in their homes. I will continue to fight for justice for the victims of the housing crisis.”

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.

HOPP is supported by $100 million from the multibillion-dollar bank settlements that Attorney General Schneiderman helped negotiate in the wake of the financial crisis. In less than three years, HOPP has served more than 43,000 homeowners statewide.

New York State Mortgage Assistance Program

The New York State Mortgage Assistance Program (NYS MAP), which began processing applications in September 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). The Attorney General’s Program 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 212 loans across the state totaling more than $6 million in funding. The average loan amount is $24,555.

AGScamHelp.com

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. The Attorney General’s office 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. 

AGScamHelp.com has several informational features:

  • Search Government-Vetted Companies: AGScamHelp.com will allow 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 will allow a consumer 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 Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, 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 resources 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.

“I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his ongoing commitment to rebuilding rural communities like the North Country,” saidNew York State Senator Betty Little. “We’re still reeling from the financial crash that started nearly a decade ago. The mortgage assistance programs created by Attorney General Schneiderman are a much-needed safety net for North Country families at risk of losing their homes.”

“Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program and Mortgage Assistance Program are producing tangible relief for North Country homeowners,” said New York State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney General to protect our families from the housing crisis.” 

“Attorney General Schneiderman has devoted unprecedented resources to support families in Plattsburgh and across the state recover from the housing crisis,” saidPlattsburgh Mayor James Calnon. “Without these programs, many families in the North Country would lack the legal and financial support needed to hang on to their homes.”

Ms. Vera Stokesis one example of a beneficiary of NYS MAP. After being diagnosed with cancer, Ms. Stokes fell behind on mortgage payments for her home in West Chazy. Her payments increased beyond her monthly income and she started receiving harassing calls from her mortgage provider. Ms. Stokes heard about NYS MAP through Friends of the North Country, a HOPP partner, and secured a loan through the program that reduced her monthly payments by 65 percent.

“I don’t know where I would be without the help I received from Friends of the North Country and the Mortgage Assistance Program,” saidVera Stokes. “I thought I was going to be homeless.”

The funding the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York receives under the Attorney General’s HOPP program makes it possible for us to help homeowner’s facing mortgage foreclosure and the loss of their home," said Peter Racette of Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York. "Funding from the Attorney General’s program allows us to assist people in applying for mortgage modifications, make sure the modification decisions made by lenders are fair and accurate, and protect people from losing their homes to predatory lending practices."

Attorney General Schneiderman has made combatting the housing crisis a priority of his administration. Schneiderman 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 banksare working at the local level across New York State to rebuild and revitalize their communities.