Foreclosure Clinic Scheduled For Saturday At College Of Staten Island

Diane J. Savino

October 21, 2008

by Staten Island Advance


First there was "Operation Protect Your Home," a forum earlier this year designed to match 2,000 struggling Island homeowners with their lenders at the College of Staten Island.

Now comes "Save Our Homes Initiative," a mortgage counseling and foreclosure prevention clinic to be offered at the college Saturday by the city comptroller. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Building 5N at CSI.

Despite attempts to help homeowners in the borough with the highest foreclosure rate, local lawyers have complained that lenders are still resisting requests to renegotiate problem loans and opting instead to foreclose.

Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. acknowledged that concern yesterday and said Saturday's clinic is another attempt to connect homeowners with experts who can offer help. The free clinics kick off here and will be offered citywide.

Several lenders and loan servicers, as well as representatives of nonprofit counseling agencies and legal services, will be on hand to talk to homeowners.

"As we see foreclosures on the rise in Staten Island, this is one way that people can obtain the information and counseling necessary to help them remain in their homes," Thompson said in an e-mail. "We are placing a strong emphasis on the opportunity for folks to take advantage of the free financial counseling."

In February, state Sen. Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn) co-hosted "Operation Protect Your Home" at CSI. At the time, participating lenders estimated that 2,031 Islanders were delinquent on their loans by 30 to 60 days and headed for foreclosure.

Her staffers said last month that they are still trying to evaluate how cooperative the participating lenders have been, and they acknowledged getting the runaround from some banks.

Local lawyers have complained that lenders often stall them and their homeowner-clients when they try to modify failing loans or negotiate short sales. The latter is when the bank agrees to take less than the mortgage owed in order to avoid foreclosure. In return, the homeowners avoid the black stain that losing a house leaves on their credit.

And advocates for homeowners are getting angry as they watch banks get government bailouts while the struggling clients they represent get the cold shoulder from some of those same lenders.

Earlier this month, reported that the Island led the city in the rate of foreclosures in the third quarter, and continued to post the highest percentage of foreclosures per household among the five boroughs. The online data firm reported that one in every 952 homes was scheduled for auction here last quarter, followed by Queens with one in every 1,163 homes.

Those expected to attend the forum Saturday include lenders such as American Home Mortgage Servicing, formerly known as Option One; America's Servicing Company, an affiliate of Wells Fargo; Litton Loan Servicing, Avelo Mortgage and Freemont Investment & Loan, all affiliates of Goldman Sachs; EMC Mortgage Corp. and Encore Credit Corp., now owned by Chase, and Saxon Mortgage Services, Morgan Stanley.

Nonprofit organizations such as Staten Island Legal Services, Neighborhood Housing Services of Staten Island, Northfield Community Local Development Corp. and the Parodneck Foundation also will attend.