2008-02-28 / Top Stories

Pols, Religious Leaders Provide Mortgage Crisis Counseling

Joined by Brooklyn and Queens based community groups, clergy, and several families in danger of being foreclosed upon, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio last week unveiled their new grassroots effort to provide free church-based mortgage counseling for New Yorkers to help stop the foreclosure crisis from spreading deeper in to Brooklyn and Queens and crippling the overall economy. Schumer said the series of nearly a dozen church based workshops will focus on spotting predatory lenders and bad loans and helping potential homebuyers take out the best loan that fits their needs and income so they never have to face the specter of foreclosure.

"The best way to wage the war on foreclosures is to make sure the people on the front lines are armed with the best information possible to fight back," Schumer said. "Brooklyn and Queens have some of the highest foreclosure rates in the country and it's only going to get worse if families on the brink don't know the best ways to avoid scams and are able to refinance before their interest rates skyrocket. The problem we have run in to over and over again though is how to get the word out. This partnership with the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens will make sure that the families most in danger hear directly from their spiritual leaders about how to get help and save their homes."

Bishop DiMarzio looks on as Sen. Schumer announces mortgage counseling for homeowners.Bishop DiMarzio looks on as Sen. Schumer announces mortgage counseling for homeowners. Bishop DiMarzio has instructed his priests to mention the workshops during Sunday Mass and actively encourage homeowners in their parishes to attend them. Two workshops ( see Brooklyn locations below ) will be held in parishes particularly hard hit by the subprime foreclosure crisis and will be conducted in English, Spanish and Creole, depending on the languages spoken in the communities.

In addition to individual counseling, the group workshops, led by top mortgage counselors, will focus on explaining existing refinancing options for homeowners whose interest rates may spike in the next month or two. The counselors will also teach first time homebuyers how to avoid predatory lenders and other scams so they never have to face the specter of foreclosure.

Workshops, which started Sunday, will be led by the pastor of the parish and counselors from the nonprofits. ACORN is the lead agency for the Brooklyn Parish and New Housing Services of N.Y. is the lead agency for the Queens. The first workshops were held last Sunday.

Schumer said the new approach of using the church as the mechanism to educate homeowners will ensure the message gets out. The parish is also a familiar, safe place where people feel comfortable and trust their clergy. The goal is to educate people about what their options are to save their homes, and to connect them with counselors and servicers who can help them do so.

Schumer said that one of the main reasons the country is in the midst of the current foreclosure crisis is that most homeowners did not know about the hidden fees and interest rates they were getting locked in to when they took out their mortgage.

The campaign is a partnership between Schumer, DiMarzio, Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, Neighborhood Economic Development and Assistance Project (NEDAP), Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), and ACORN.

Schumer and DiMarzio were joined by Violet McCurchin of Canarsie and others and their families, all of whom are in danger of losing their homes because the interest rates on their mortgages are about to or have spiked, sending their monthly payments through the roof.

The senator said that these workshops will focus on families like these who need to find a way to refinance their mortgage or risk losing their homes.

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