City Council members head to D.C. to stop foreclosures

By Sadef Ali Kully

Two southeast Queens City Council members joined U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), along with homeowners from across the nation, at a rally last week in Washington D.C. against foreclosures and the big companies that still benefit from the 2008 mortgage crisis.

Council members I. Daneek Miller (D-St.Albans) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), both on the Council Committee on Economic Development, have diligently fought foreclosures, which affect both of their districts.

In the borough, one in every 1,626 homes ends up in foreclosure—mostly in the Springfield Gardens, St Albans, Cambria Heights, South Ozone Park and Arverne neighborhoods, according to RealtyTrac, a leading provider of data and analytics for the real estate and financial services industries.

RealtyTrac estimated that in August the number of properties that went into foreclosure in Queens was 58 percent higher than for the same period last year. In the city, 7 percent of homes have gone into foreclosure; the current national foreclosure rate is 8 percent.

Warren said that in the past year, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both overseen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, sold over 100,000 loans. According to Warren, almost 95 percent of those loans have gone to Wall Street banks, private equity funds, or hedge funds, “Wall Street is interested in profits, not in neighborhood stabilization,” she said.

Warren said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released data on about 79,000 delinquent mortgages auctioned off exclusively to hedge funds and big banks.

“We want the message to be loud and clear to HUD and FHA: don’t sell our citizens short by selling to private banks that do not have the best interest of our people at heart,” said Richards.

After the rally, Warren, Richards, Miller, along with other elected officials with FHFA Director Melvin Watt to proposed four small changes: give nonprofits a chance to buy the loans, to notify homeowners before the foreclosure sale, put conditions on the sale to benefit homeowners and accountability, where federal agencies need to collect data and make it public.

“Since an April hearing at York College, we continue to negotiate and create a pipeline for this program, it is vital that our partners in the federal government remain open and supportive of these efforts,” Miller said.

Warren said the changes proposed do not require any action from Congress.

“FHFA welcomes all perspectives on the issue. Director Watt met with local elected officials and housing advocates to listen to their concerns. We are not at odds; a constructive dialogue is welcomed,” FHFA spokesperson said.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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