ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — On Thursday, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns and local housing leaders held a press conference to urge homeowners and tenants impacted by foreclosure to stay in their homes.
"I implore you if you are behind on your loan stay in your home," emphasized Kearns.
He suggested calling the foreclosure hotline at 716-828-8429 to seek free legal advice.
Kearns revealed data that showed 2,930 Erie County properties have received a pre-foreclosure default notice in the last six months. That does not include homeowners slightly behind or in a forbearance agreement.
"This is the highest we've seen," said Sandy Becker, the Senior Housing Programs Director for Belmont Housing Resources of WNY.
Becker said scammers will try to getting money from people, claiming to help. She urges to not fall for it, and seek help from the free local legal services.
"That is a number I guarantee will grow," said Kearns. "That is the first indication of what is to come when it comes to the foreclosure crisis that we are anticipating in Erie county."
These foreclosures are an impact of COVID-19. Kearns said at the height of the Great Recession in 2008, the statewide mortgage default rate, which is percentage of New Yorkers who missed mortgage payments, was 3.8%. That percentage increased to 11.8% in 2020. It lowered to 5.3% last April, but it’s believed to have since increased.
The county divided the properties by zip code. Only three of the top ten codes for pre-foreclosure notices are located in the City of Buffalo.
Kate Lockhart, WNY Law's Director of Vacant and Abandoned Properties said it's important to preserve home ownership so properties don't become abandoned, or "zombie properties."
"Our goal is to preserve home ownership to keep people in their home," said Lockhart. "That really does amazing things not just for that family, but the community."