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Foreclosure Program funding in jeopardy

Western New York Law Center's foreclosure program is in jeopardy.
Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 18:43:11-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Western New York Law Center's (WNYLC) foreclosure program is in jeopardy.

"We actually only have funding for foreclosure prevention through the end of this month - March, so April 1, we won't have any funding," said Kate Lockhart, Foreclosure Manager, WNYLC.

The statewide Foreclosure Prevention Services Network is seeking an additional $20-million, funded through the New York State Attorney General's Office. But it was not included in Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget amendments. That trickles down to the Law Center, were two employees left their jobs, worried they would be jobless at the end of the month.

"The worst part about that, is we have a very knowledgeable staff who's been working on this kind of work for a very long time and if we lose that pool of knowledge it can be very detrimental to the client," remarked Lockhart.

The Western New York Law Center directly represents homeowners facing foreclosure. But if the funding ends, the center will be limited to serve very low, low income residents.

"Since 2017, we have represented 3,700 families in Western New York and we don't have any reason to believe those numbers are going to start going down. They've stayed pretty consistent over the last couple of years, and in particular, with the city of Buffalo reassessing properties in this next year, our concern is that we are going to see an increase in foreclosure from the people who's property values have skyrocketed over several years," Lockhart explained.

The WNYLC has no income limits in helping homeowners in trouble - that includes working class, those who lost a job or a spouse or are facing a family health crisis.

"It's not just a situation of 'we spent too much on our house and we can't afford it' - in Western New York it's not that people are spending too much money, it's post recession, especially - people are just that much closer to one little hiccup in their finances causing an avalanche that cascades into a mortgage foreclosure," remarked Lockhart.

The state Senate and Assembly budget bills recently announced include the foreclosure funding program, but there's no guarantee of passage.

We reached out to State Senator Tim Kennedy to ask about the potential funding loss. Kennedy's chief of staff, Adam Fogel, responded to our request explaining the senator has been an advocated of increasing funding for the Foreclosure Prevention Programs statewide.

"In recent years, the network of providers has received funding from settlement proceeds administered by the New York State Attorney General, but those proceeds will be exhausted on March 31, 2019. The Senate One House included $20-million, with $12-million in new funding and a re-apporpriation of $*-million from last year that wasn't spent," wrote Fogel.

The WNY Law Center is among 89 providers of the foreclosure programs statewide.