Jamaica housing advocacy group praises Obama’s veto

Realtor Dorothy Buse stands in front of a foreclosed home in Florida. A bill vetoed by President Obama should prevent sloppy foreclosures from being approved, according to experts in southeast Queens. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
By Ivan Pereira

A housing advocacy group said that despite new efforts put in place by the government, southeast Queens is still leading in home foreclosures and the president’s veto to a new bill last week saved residents from even more despair.

Representatives from Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica said they were glad President Barack Obama did not sign the foreclosure documents bill last Thursday because it would have created a loophole that would have hurt homeowners in the long run. The bill would have given banks the ability to notarize foreclosure documents from other states more easily, according to Dan Karen, the community development director at the nonprofit.

“It would have allowed the bank to accept that notary without checking,” he said.

Karen said the move came in timely in light of news that several banks and courts around the country have been mismanaging hundreds of thousands of home foreclosures. In some instances, banks were rubber-stamping foreclosure documents without any regard to deadlines or the homeowner’s situation, according to the director.

Documents were notarized on different dates than the one indicated on the paper, Karen said.

“There have been reports of foreclosure mill law firms that were doing thousands of foreclosure notaries a month. When you’re doing that many there really is no guarantee that they are doing the foreclosure process correctly,” he said.

New York is one of 23 states to halt foreclosure procedures from banks such as JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Chase because of the errors they made. Karen said he hopes that when the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate rewrite the bill, they will take into account the problems of giving the banks more leeway for foreclosure and emphasize the importance of being thorough in the procedures.

“The banks are saying to people by taking out a mortgage you are being held to a contract, but it seems that no one is keeping the bank to this same standard,” he said.

The director said he was not surprised when he heard about the mass mismanagement by the banks because he has seen several real-life cases from clients who have struggled with their foreclosures because of miscommunication from their lenders.

“Hopefully, it puts a spotlight on the foreclosure process,” he said of the president’s veto.

Cathy Mickens, executive director for NHS, said elected officials should take this opportunity to focus on the needs of homeowners. Although parts of the nation have seen a slight recovery in the housing situation, southeast Queens still leads the state in the number of foreclosures and it has not been slipping.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen after that moratorium,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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