Record foreclosures grab pols attention

Queens residents, especially those in the southeast portion of the borough, continue to suffer from a record-high number of foreclosures, primarily because of subprime mortgages, but elected officials are devoting more attention to the problem.
Governor Eliot Spitzer recently announced $100 million to a &#8220Keep the Dream” refinancing program that will offer at-risk homeowners the opportunity to refinance their mortgages at a 30- or 40-year-fixed rate in order to avoid foreclosure.
&#8220Homeownership is crucial to growing our economy throughout New York State,” Spitzer said. &#8220This innovative program will help address the foreclosure crisis by offering at-risk families mortgages they can afford, so they can keep their homes for years to come.”
Under Spitzer's program - which is a partnership between Fannie Mae, mortgage lenders and mortgage insurance companies - the State of New York Mortgage Agency (SONYMA) will offer assistance to residents statewide who meet the income requirements for the program.
In addition, a portion of the funding will go towards counseling centers throughout the state, with Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica in Queens one of the recipients to educate residents on homeownership.
&#8220Our goal in requiring counseling is to help homeowners increase their financial literacy and promote sustainable homeownership,” said Marian Zucker, Executive Vice President of SONYMA. &#8220We want homebuyers to understand the risks and responsibilities of owning a home so they will remain homeowners.”
Meanwhile, City Comptroller William Thompson established a Foreclosure Prevention Hotline in April of this year, and already the number has received more than 1,200 calls from throughout the city, state and even some from other parts of the country.
&#8220Every day my office hears yet another story about a family facing the loss of their home,” Thompson said. &#8220As I've said since announcing my Helpline in April, this problem is not disappearing anytime soon.
Thompson's office said that nearly 45 percent of the calls to the hotline have come from Queens residents, and many foreclosure incidents involve subprime loans, which lenders write for people with poor credit histories and often contain high interest rates that cause borrowers to default.
&#8220This Helpline connects those in need with various organizations with an expertise in banking and housing,” Thompson said. &#8220I encourage any homeowner confronted with swelling bills and a diminishing ability to pay to call my office. We are here to help.”

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