“The number of foreclosures across the Buffalo region is troubling, but this isn’t just a matter of numbers: each foreclosure represents a devastating loss for families and communities. This program is putting homeowners first, and it is getting our neighborhoods back on track,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Funding housing counseling and legal services is an essential step to help more families stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure. As we continue to investigate the mortgage crisis that has hurt communities in Western New York and across the state, our Homeowner Protection Program will ensure that homeowners get the expert guidance and legal representation they need to protect their rights before it's too late.”
In June of 2012, Attorney General Schneiderman announced funding for three legal service providers and four housing counseling organizations serving at-risk homeowners in the Buffalo/Niagara region. For the first year of operation, $1.1 million went to the seven local organizations.
The seven organizations are:
- Belmont Housing Resources - Housing counseling organization, serving residents in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Orleans, Allegany, and Wyoming Counties.
- Buffalo Urban League - Housing counseling organization serving residents in Erie and Niagara Counties.
- Westside Neighborhood Housing Services - Housing counseling organization serving residents in Erie and Niagara Counties.
- Consumer Credit Counseling of Buffalo - Housing counseling organization serving residents in Erie, Niagara, Wyoming, Genesee, Orleans, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany Counties.
- Western NY Law Center - Legal services organization serving residents in Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties.
- Legal Services for Elderly and Disabled - Legal services organization serving residents in Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties.
- Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo - Legal services organization serving residents in Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming Counties.
HOPP counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need in order to submit applications for loan modifications; an outcome that usually results in lower monthly mortgage payments and prevents foreclosures from going forward but which can take more than a year to negotiate. Of the 547 borrowers who have received counseling in the Buffalo/Niagara region through the HOPP program, 223 – or more than 40% ‑ are already in active negotiations or have been formally offered loan modifications.
Statewide the numbers are just as encouraging. Of the roughly 3,600 families counseled throughout New York, 1,500 homeowners – or close to 42% ‑ have pending or formally approved loan modifications thanks to assistance from one of the HOPP grantees.
The Attorney General's office has also announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling. By calling 1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified HOPP counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours.
The combined seven organizations in the Buffalo-Niagara region that have received funding under the Attorney General’s HOPP Program began providing services in early October. This program ensured that there were no disruptions in services to homeowners who rely on these professionals as a lifeline during these very difficult negotiations.
Legal services and housing counseling funded through New York’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program have become an integral part of the foreclosure process in New York State. Funding for the program was set to expire on April 1 of last year, but the Attorney General provided $15 million from the national mortgage settlement to extend it until October 1, 2012. Attorney General Schneiderman's Homeowner Protection Program replaced the state’s Foreclosure Prevention Services Program when it expired and ensured that these critical services will continue to be funded for at least three more years.