Empire Justice has been working on homeownership and predatory mortgage lending issues since the 1990’s. We work on behalf of homeowners who are the proverbial David in the fight against Goliath, the big banks and mortgage servicers who own the majority of mortgage loans in this country. The odds are stacked against homeowners who stand very little chance of winning their battles without professional assistance. We also work on tax foreclosure, deed theft and foreclosure rescue scams, and neighborhood blight issues. This testimony focuses on the need for continued funding for New York’s network of 87 housing counseling and legal services programs that have been keeping homeowners in their homes since 2008.
Prior to the creation of these services and the mandatory settlement conferences, over 90 percent of foreclosures ended in a default judgment against homeowners – meaning, virtually no homeowners but a few were saving their homes once they went into foreclosure.1 Since 2012, the network of 87 housing counseling and legal services programs have helped well over 100,000 families statewide and save homes in around 34 percent of those cases by loan modification. The percentage would be even higher if we were to factor in homes saved through reinstatement, litigation or other loss mitigation option.
Funding is running out for all programs on March 31, 2020. Without $20 million in funding from the State for the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP), we expect two-thirds of these services will stop being available to homeowners and communities immediately, and further cuts will come to services over this year. HOPP services are the only services in communities throughout New York State focused on helping homeowners in distress and there simply is no other dedicated funding source for these services. Without assistance, the rate of homes lost in foreclosure will likely climb back up to over 90 percent.
Read the full testimony here: Housing Budget Testimony 2020 – Empire Justice Center.