Schneiderman Announces $300K Awarded for Foreclosure Prevention Services in WNY

April 25, 2012 Updated Apr 25, 2012 at 1:38 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Schneiderman Announces $300K Awarded for Foreclosure Prevention Services in WNY

April 25, 2012 Updated Apr 25, 2012 at 1:38 PM EDT

ALBANY (WKBW release) -- New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Wednesday announced his office has awarded nearly $300,000 in foreclosure prevention services to aid Western New York homeowners through the foreclosure crisis.

According to a news release:

In January, Attorney General Schneiderman issued a Request for Applications seeking bids from non-profit legal services and legal aid organizations to provide direct legal services to homeowners in foreclosure or at imminent risk of foreclosure. 31 organizations were awarded grants from the Attorney General to help homeowners across the state.

Wednesday's announcement comes only weeks after Schneiderman designated a separate $15 million of the $132 million he secured from the national mortgage servicing settlement to be used to extend funding for foreclosure prevention and other related services. Up to $9 million of that allocation will be used to support the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program, which was set to expire on April 1, and $6 million will support housing and community renewal activities statewide through not-for-profit community-based housing organizations.

“As our state faces tight budget times, we must be creative and aggressive in our efforts to support working families who are struggling to stay in their homes,” said Schneiderman. “Funding legal services is essential to bringing relief for the homeowners and communities that have been devastated by the crash of the housing market, and these grants will provide thousands of Western New Yorkers with the legal expertise they desperately need to defend their rights in court. As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has impacted communities in every corner of this state, this effort will ensure that justice and accountability prevail at every step of the way.”

“This is a major victory for struggling homeowners facing foreclosure in every corner of New York State,” said Mark Ladov, Counsel, Democracy and Justice Programs at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “We appreciate Attorney General Schneiderman's tireless efforts to help fight the epidemic of foreclosures across the country by funding on-the-ground services for homeowners at risk of losing their homes. Because of his leadership, New York's most vulnerable homeowners will receive access to vital and effective services that provide the last line of defense against avoidable-and often wrongful-foreclosures.”

“Homeowners across this state are struggling in these tough economic times. We owe a debt of gratitude for Attorney General Schneiderman’s bold action that will give the working families in our community a fighting chance,” said Darius G. Pridgen, Senior Pastor of the True Bethel Baptist Church and Member of the Buffalo Common Council. “By allocating resources for foreclosure prevention services, the Attorney General has once again stood up for those who need our help the most.”

Two million dollars of today’s allocation will be funded by an agreement with Steven J. Baum P.C., Pillar Processing, LLC, Steven J. Baum, and Brian Kumiega as part of a settlement with New York State related to abuses in their foreclosure-related legal work. Another $1 million will be funded by unspent dollars from a settlement between the Attorney General’s Office and Ameriquest Mortgage, Co. That investigation found that Ameriquest engaged in predatory and illegal lending practices to sell and refinance mortgages, including misrepresenting and failing to disclose loan terms, charging excessive loan origination fees, and inflating appraisals to qualify borrowers for loans.

Statewide, an average of 1 in 10 mortgages is at risk of foreclosure. The approximate number of individuals living in homes that are either in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure (based on typical household size for each distressed mortgage) exceeds the populations of Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse combined.

Civil legal services for homeowners have become an integral part of our state’s foreclosure process. New York’s comprehensive foreclosure prevention law entitles homeowners to a settlement conference in court within sixty days after a foreclosure action is filed with the court. Organizations providing foreclosure prevention legal services have offered critical support for homeowners in negotiating loan modifications or other positive resolutions from lenders at foreclosure settlement conferences. Without funding from the state, most of these agencies would lose the resources necessary to fulfill these critical obligations to homeowners.

While foreclosures come at a high cost for families and communities, preventing foreclosures through legal assistance is cost effective for taxpayers. The Empire Justice Center projects that if foreclosures of currently distressed properties continue unabated, they will cost local governments in New York State more than $5 billion. However, for every foreclosure averted, through legal assistance or other measures, counties would save an average of $186,695 in direct and indirect costs including losses in property value and tax revenue.

In February, Attorney General Schneiderman announced a settlement of over $130 million for New York with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, the fourth highest dollar amount nationwide as part of the federal-state settlement. In addition to penalties for past abuses, the settlement includes direct relief to victims of wrongful foreclosure conduct, loan modifications including principal reductions for struggling homeowners, and funds that can be used to support foreclosure legal assistance and housing counseling programs. The settlement, which also imposes strong national standards for mortgage servicing, fulfilled Attorney General Schneiderman’s demand that he retain the right to bring legal action over misconduct that has not yet been investigated.

The following is a list of final grantees:

Applicant

Funding

Geographic Area Served

New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

$100,000

All of NYC

Changer

$100,000

Queens, Kings and Nassau counties

City Bar Justice

$100,000

Citywide services - but focus of RFA on Queens

Queens Legal Services

$100,000

Queens

MFY Legal Services

$100,000

Queens

Legal Aid Society - Queens

$100,000

Queens

Legal Services Brooklyn Branch

$100,000

Kings

Legal Services Brooklyn Corp A

$100,000

Kings

CAMBA Legal Services

$100,000

Kings

Brooklyn Bar Assn Vol Lawyers

$100,000

Kings

South Brooklyn Legal

$100,000

Kings

Bronx Legal Services

$100,000

Bronx

Legal Aid Society - Bronx

$100,000

Bronx

Staten Island Legal Services

$100,000

Richmond

MFY Legal Services

$100,000

Richmond

 

 

 

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley - Westchester

$100,000

Westchester

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley - Orange

$100,000

Orange

Touro Law School

$  97,000

Suffolk

Nassau County Bar

$100,000

Nassau

Nassau Suffolk Legal (Suffolk)

$100,000

Suffolk

Nassau Suffolk Legal (Nassau)

$100,000

Nassau

Legal Aid Rockland

$100,000

Rockland

 

 

 

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York

$100,000

Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Green, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, St. Lawrence, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington counties

Legal Aid Society of Rochester

$100,000

Greater Rochester area and Monroe county

Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York

$100,000

Mohwak Valley (Herkimer, Madison, Oneida and Otsego counties)

Empire Justice Center

$  91,000

Rochester/Monroe county

Western New York Law Center

$100,000

Buffalo/Erie county

Volunteer Legal Services Project

$  30,000

Monroe county

Legal Services Central New York

$100,000

Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland and Cayuga counties

Legal Services Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York

$  75,000

City of Buffalo and Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming counties

Legal Assistance of Western New York

$100,000

Allegany, Steuben, Chemung, Schuyler, Livingston, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Yates, Tioga, Tompkins, Chautauqua counties