by Elizabeth Daley
Inspired by the high foreclosure rate across the country and in Queens, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights) joined allies City Comptroller John Liu and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Fort Greene) at City Hall on Tuesday to promote legislation requiring lenders and brokers to provide consumers with a document explaining the mortgage process, consumer rights and protections.
Peralta urged Gov. David Paterson to sign the legislation shortly after speaking to residents facing foreclosure in his district at a workshop last Thursday.
“Everybody came here to live the American Dream. Everyone came here to have a better life for their family ... now people are feeling they may lose their American Dream,” Peralta said to the workshop attendees gathered in the basement of Voces Latinas in Jackson Heights.
Many clutched documents detailing their financial woes, hoping to speak with bankers or representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about modifying their loans. Some had already sold homes at a significant loss.
Queens is the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis and while southeast Queens has the most well documented problem, Peralta said homeowners in Corona were also struggling.
“Many of the people that you’ll find here are people that are first time home buyers and many of them were directed to too much house with too little income,” he said.
Henry Comas, an operations specialist with HUD said that home buyers often fell victim to one-stop mortgage shops and lacked the education needed to discern unreasonable lending terms. Comas assists victims of predatory lending as part of the nationwide Making Home Affordable program created under the Obama administration. The program may enable up to 9 million homeowners to refinance or modify their loans.
Through a translator, Luz Roman said she bought her home in Corona in 2006 but could no longer afford to make her payments. “I didn’t know the interest rate would keep going up,” she said.
Her friend who did not want to be identified because she works as a real estate agent said she was embarrassed that she lost her home. She could not take the stress of knowing she was in debt, facing foreclosure, so she decided to short sell her home at a loss. “I was nervous and anxious and I couldn’t sleep, so I decided it’s better not to have a home,” she said.
“I was dreaming, I had a vision, but the moment that I took the house in 2005 was the wrong moment. I sold it at 50 percent of the price, at a $45,000 loss. I had this experience and that’s why I am helping others.”
However, Peralta encouraged workshop attendees to have hope and use the services available to maintain financial solvency. The last option is to sell.
“If I had the chance everyone has now, I would have kept my house,” said the real estate agent.