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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Real Help for Bronx Homeowners on the Way!

Opinion from Guest Blogger Gregory Lobo Jost
Nearly two years ago at a forum on the State of Homeownership in the Bronx, University Neighborhood Housing Program called on the City and bank partners to expand their pilot foreclosure prevention on 311 program citywide. Finally, in early 2008, thay day will arrive, and it will benefit Bronx homeowners (and their neighbors) tremendously.

Earlier this month, the Mayor, City Council and NEDAP announced the Center for NYC Neighborhoods (CNYCN), a new nonprofit entity that will "fund a major expansion and coordination of counseling and referral services, legal assistance, loan remediation, preventive outreach and education, training, research and advocacy around sub-prime lending and mortgage foreclosures."

The reason that this program offers real help for homeowners is not just that it streamlines the process onto 311, but that it provides resources for existing counseling agencies to expand their work, hire new counselors, and funds legal assistance for homeowners throughout the five boroughs. The $1 million from HPD and $1.8 million from the City Council will be the base of the organization's $5.3 million budget for its first year, with financial and philanthropic donations making up the remainder. These resources will allow counseling groups to take on more volume instead of turning people away who need the help. Instead of another hotline referring distressed homeowners to the same over-strapped groups, CNYCN will offer real assistance for New York's homeowners and neighborhoods.

For the Bronx, this assistance comes not a moment too soon. For years, the only homeowner counseling group in the Bronx had been Neighborhood Housing Services of the North Bronx, where one counselor had been responsible for foreclosure prevention for an entire borough. Recently, through a City Council earmark, the Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation (NIDC) took on homeowner counseling, but their counselor also can't handle the volume.

Thanks to CNYCN, more counselors will be on the way, placed at these groups and/or other organizations. In addition, UNHP's Eric Fergen will be leaving the Bronx where he has been performing outreach, intake and referrals for homeowners for the past two and a half years. A centralized system on 311 with adequate counseling resources on the back end will help fill the gap, especially for homeowners in the West Bronx where none of the counseling groups are located.

Importantly, the new center will also fund legal assistance throughout the City, including attorneys placed in the Bronx. They will help handle the volume of homeowners that were victims of predatory lending and other scams such as deed theft.

The Center for NYC Neighborhoods will hopefully put all of the pieces together quickly so that it can officially launch and operate in early 2008. Until then, Bronx homeowners can still call 311 for a referral to a counseling agency, but it could be difficult to receive assistance until the new counselors come in. If you can't get assistance from a local group, there is also a national hotline that may be able to help you (1-888-995-HOPE), although they don't provide legal assistance.

But help is on the way!


  1. This is really welcome news!! Congrats to all who worked to make this happen.

  2. Read more about this program, and the need for legislative action here: http://www.citylimits.org/content/articles/viewarticle.cfm?article_id=3466


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