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State Schedules Foreclosure Forum


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Homeowners who are facing foreclosure have a chance to meet with thier bankers to discuss opportunities to save thier homes.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen and Banking Commissioner Howard F. Pitkin on Tuesday announced another opportunity available for distressed homeowners so they can to explore loan modification and foreclosure prevention options with their lenders.

Foreclosure-2302A mortgage assistance event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on  Oct. 22. Free parking will be available for attendees.

This is the sixth sponsored by the state,  announced at a news conference today by Homeowners in the Greater Hartford area that are struggling to stay in their homes

Officials said that in addition to meeting directly with a lender or loan servicer, housing counselors will be on hand to meet with homeowners.  Federal, state and local agencies will be available, providing information including job training, fuel assistance and other community resources.  Those unable to attend can get help through the Department’s Foreclosure Assistance Hotline, at 1-877-472-8313.

Among the loan servicers sending representatives are: Bank of America; CitiMortgage; First Niagara Bank; HSBC National Bank USA; JPMorgan Chase & Co.; McCue Mortgage; Nationstar Mortgage; Ocwen Loan Servicing; People’s United Bank; PNC Mortgage; U.S. Bank Home Mortgage; Webster Bank and Wells Fargo Bank, in addition to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Also attending will be HUD-approved housing counselors, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, pro bono attorneys, Judicial Branch foreclosure mediators and other federal, state and non-profit agencies.

Officials also said that the events “make it easy for homeowners to start the loan review process or to expedite it.” If additional paperwork is necessary, the homeowner comes away with a single point of contact to make sure that information gets to where it needs to be.

More information about the mortgage assistance event, including the information homeowners should bring to help them get answers quickly, is available atwww.ct.gov/dob, or by calling the Department of Banking at 860-240-8170 or Toll-free 1-877-472-8313.

 

 

 

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AG Reaches Agreement With Wells Fargo Bank


HARTFORD – Attorney General George Jepsen on Wednesday announced an agreement with Wells Fargo Bank over allegedly deceptive marketing of payment-option, adjustable-rate mortgage loans by Wachovia and Golden West Financial, two corporations Wells Fargo acquired in 2008.

Under the agreement, Wells Fargo will consider approximately 1,535 eligible Connecticut homeowners for loan modifications.  In addition, the bank will provide Connecticut with $741,465 to support the State’s foreclosure prevention efforts.

The agreement resolves claims that Wachovia and Golden West violated state consumer protection laws by failing to fully explain to borrowers that the minimum payment on their so-called “pick-a-payment” loans did not cover the full amount of accrued interest, and that choosing to make the minimum payment would increase the amount of the loan.

Some borrowers in Connecticut eventually faced higher loan balances and unaffordable monthly payments when they had to begin making full principal and interest payments.

“I am pleased that Wells Fargo is addressing this issue. Connecticut homeowners struggling with these risky, ‘pick-a-payment’ loans will have a fair opportunity to achieve a loan modification or other relief,” Jepsen said.

The agreement provides that Wells Fargo will offer modifications to eligible, qualified borrowers who reside in their homes and who are either 60 days delinquent or facing imminent default.  Borrowers will first be considered for the federal Home Affordable Modification Program, and if the borrower cannot qualify or elects not to accept a modification under that program, Wells Fargo will consider the borrower for the bank’s modification program, known as Mortgage Assistance Program 2.

Modified loan terms will vary depending on the circumstances of the borrower, but can include principal forgiveness, loan extension, interest-rate reduction, and principal forbearance.  Borrowers who remain current on their modified payments for three years may be able to earn additional principal forgiveness.  Borrowers who qualify may also convert into a fixed-rate loan.  Wells Fargo will also offer other foreclosure alternatives where warranted, including short sale, deed-in-lieu, and relocation assistance.

Wells Fargo customers who originally took out mortgages through Wachovia or Golden West and are looking for information about the loan modification program can call (888) 565-1422 to speak with a bank representative.  The eligibility period to be considered for a loan modification under the agreement ends June 30, 2013.

Jepsen encouraged all homeowners having difficulty making mortgage loan payments to seek assistance as soon as possible.  The website of the state Department of Banking,www.ct.gov/dob,  contains valuable information on avoiding scams, applying for loan modifications and navigating the foreclosure process, he said.  Homeowners may also call the Department’s Foreclosure Assistance Hotline at (877) 472-8313.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph J. Chambers handled this matter for the Attorney General with Department Head Matthew Budzik of the Finance Unit.

 

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Faces of Foreclosure: Repossessing the Dream


Editor’s Note: With over 1.2 million foreclosed homes in the last three years, California leads the nation in total foreclosures. Yet we know little about the fate of those who lost their homes. Unlike the 400,000 Okies made homeless by the Dustbowl who were immortalized by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, we have no narrative to capture the human fallout of the foreclosure crisis in the Golden State, let alone elsewhere.

New America Media, partnering with ethnic news organizations across California, and with the Washington, D.C.-based Investigative Reporting Workshop has launched FACES OF FORECLOSURE — REPOSSESSING THE AMERICAN DREAM.

We start this series with a dozen profiles by ethnic media reporters and NAM staff, including Charlene Muhammad with Final Call, Shawn Liu with World Journal, Róger Lindo with La Opinion, and Jaya Padmanabhan with India Currents. The project showcases photographs by award-winning photographer Joseph Rodriguez and video by Cliff Parker.

To read the profiles, click here.

 

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Hartford Guardian News Magazine Wins National Award


WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Connecticut’s capital city online newsmagazine The Hartford Guardian is one of three winners of the 2010 McGraw-Hill Companies Personal Finance Awards national competition.

The Guardian’s founding editor Ann-Marie Adams won third place for stories that tackle economic issues facing minority communities. Adams’s story,  “Losing Ground: Foreclosure Rate Higher Among Minority Homeowners”, details the particular hardships faced by minority homeowners in Connecticut facing foreclosure.

The Guardian covers Hartford and its surrounding areas and focuses on untold stories about the city’s diverse residents.

First place went to Elizabeth Ostos of a monthly newspaper Mercado de Dinero for her article “Credit consolidation in a country in debt”. Second place went to Carlos Rajo of Telemundo, Los Angeles for his article “A House of Their Own: Is the American Dream too Expensive?” Rajo explains how the mortgage crisis has changed the perception of home ownership among the Hispanic community.

The journalists were among 30 reporters who participated in The International Center for Journalists online program in English and Spanish. The program sought to provide in-depth knowledge of consumer finance issues of particular importance to minority communities.

The winners will be honored in September at The McGraw-Hill Companies’ headquarters in New York. The New York Times Columnist Ron Lieber will give the keynote address.

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Report: Foreclosures Are Making People Sick


New America Media, Video, Text: Viji Sundaram, Video: Mike Siv,

OAKLAND, Calif. – For 22 days earlier this year, Gilbert Aguilar lived without gas and electricity in his one-bedroom rental apartment here in East Oakland. The building went into foreclosure and the bank that took it over was his new landlord.

“The banks have to be good landlords,” Aguilar, 50, said at a press conference outside his home Thursday. “They have to make sure that properties are safe and habitable.”

He was among other tenants of foreclosed housing in Oakland and San Francisco at the press conference, organized by community group Causa Justa/ Just Cause (CJJC) and the Alameda County Public Health Department.

Dozens of mostly African Americans and Latinos stood in the sweltering heat, holding signs in English and Spanish that said, “Protect Tenants Right to Stay,” and “Foreclosure is a Health Issue.” They chanted, “Cough, cough, achoo, achoo, foreclosure is bad for you.”
The foreclosure crisis is affecting tenants and homeowners, according to the public health agency. When banks repossess a home, they seldom bother to maintain it before putting it on the auction block, and the consequences can affect residents’ health, according to a study by Just Cause last summer that was funded by The California Endowment.

Foreclosures are Making People Sick from New America Media on Vimeo.

The study looked at how the high rate of foreclosures in select East and West Oakland neighborhoods had affected the health of their residents. A survey of 388 residents concluded that “foreclosures make us sick.”

Between 2006 and 2009, one in four mortgages in Oakland, affecting 14,941 property owners, began to enter into foreclosure, according to the report, titled, Rebuilding Neighborhoods, Restoring Health.”

Alameda County Health Department Deputy Director Dr. Sandra Witt highlighted the report’s findings.

Among them were:

· Almost one-third of tenants in foreclosed properties said they were living in sub-standard conditions with health risks due to mold, pests and utility shut-offs.
· Rates of stress, depression and anxiety were more than two times higher among foreclosed residents.
· Nearly 90 percent of foreclosed residents were struggling to make ends meet. Many have to choose whether to pay for food, health care or utility bills.
· The rate of foreclosure is twice as high among the unemployed as those working full-time or part-time.

“Right now we’re standing on a hot spot of home foreclosures that are leaving a legacy of stress,” said Dr. Anthony Iton, vice president of The California Endowment’s Healthy Families Initiative. “And just as Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf and exacted a toll on vulnerable communities, we’ve created hazardous social conditions in this community.”

Unfair lending practices by banks, noted Liana Molina, an organizer with California Reinvestment Coalition, an nonprofit advocacy group, are to blame for this. In Oakland, such banks as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase were responsible for more than half of all foreclosures in 2008, she said.

Iton believes that a concerted effort by CJJC, the county and his organization could bring about changes in policies that affect people like Aguilar.

As for Aguilar, after trying unsuccessfully for months to get Deutsche Bank to pay for his utilities, as per the rental agreement he had with his former landlord, following CJJC’s intervention, the bank finally agreed. But he said he’s not sure how long it will be before his luck runs out.

“I got a notice from PG&E yesterday that they are going to turn the power off,” he said.

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City’s Foreclosure Rate Jumps 74 percent


By Yvonne Smith, Staff Writer

HARTFORD –  The city’s  foreclosure rate jumped a whopping 74 percent from February to March, according to a report released today.

In March, 74 household units in Hartford received  a foreclosure notice, as opposed to 35 households  in February.

Hartford’s foreclosure rate for the month of March is above the state’s average,  a 22 percent increase from February’s filings, according to Realtytrac. Since 2005, the firm has been  tracking  foreclosure rates state by state.

The state and several organinations have implemented measures to help stem the recent wave of foreclosures. In addition, the federal government is urging banks to “do more.”

Connecticut’s  General Assembly yesterday passed a bill to extend court-mandated mediation. And the NAACP recently withdrew a lawsuit against Wells Fargo after the company agreed on the NAACP’s “Banking Principles on Fairness and Lending.”  The agreement advances “practices that ensure all borrowers get the higheste quality credit vehicle appropriatef or their circumstnces and that gaurd agains racial discrimination in lending,” according to its website.  The NAACP remains in litigation with 14 other financial insitutions, inlcuding JP Morgan Chase, Citibank adn HSBC over allegations of unfair lending practices and lending discrimination.

On the heels of this depressing news for the city, its  thrid annual clebration of  Fair Housing Month next Friday will be especially poingnant for those facing foreclosure. This year’s theme is “Knowledge is the Key,”  and it will  be from  10  a.m. to 12  p.m. in the Hartford Public Library, Seminar Room on the second  floor at 500 Main St. Speakers include representatives from,  among others,  the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developmement, housing Education Resource Center and the State’s Comission on Human Rights Opportunities.

This year  marks the 42nd anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act.  The landmark civil rights legislation—also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act—was enacted April 11, 1968. 

Fair Housing Act protects the right of every individual or family to live in the home of their dreams, in the neighborhood of their choice, and prohibits discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, elderliness, and family status.

“Today discrimmination is not always as obvious,” said Elda Sinani, coordinator of the event.” It’s not as obvious as a slammed door, and ignorance of the law is not a defense.”

The seminar is targeting homeowners as well as  housing providers such as property mangers, landlords, real estate agents, banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, developers, and other housing professionals, organizers said.

The city provides education and referrals and will soon start enforcement, Sinani said.

For additional information and pre-registration please contact Elda Sinani, Fair Housing Officer at (860)757-9787.

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Foreclosures in Connecticut Up Again


HARTFORD — The Associated Press is reporting that  the number of foreclosures in Connecticut has increased 3.4 percent from January to February, despite a national decline.

Foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac Inc. released its monthly report Thursday. It says there were nearly 2,300 foreclosure filings in the state last month, compared with about 2,200 in January.

Total foreclosures nationwide decreased 2 percent from January to February, raising hopes that the housing crisis may be ending. RealtyTrac says more than 308,000 households nationwide, or one in every 418 homes, received a foreclosure-related notice in February.

RealtyTrac’s report comes as Connecticut lawmakers are debating whether to extend the state’s foreclosure mediation program another year to help troubled homeowners.

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Foreclosure Crisis In Sight?


The Associated Press is reporting that the foreclosure crisis is near. That’s because, the report says, for the first time in almost three years, the number of homeowners falling behind on their loans is declining.

WASHINGTON — The end of the foreclosure crisis is finally in sight. For the first time in almost three years, the number of homeowners falling behind on their loans is declining. The drop means the number of people losing their homes will start to fall.

But some pain from the crisis is sure to persist. Because millions of people are already in foreclosure, deeply discounted houses will put pressure on home prices for years. “Housing is on a path to recovery,” said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with Weiss Research.

“It’s going to be a very long, gradual process.” In high-foreclosure cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami, homes have lost roughly half their values from their peaks. But a report Friday from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed Nevada, Arizona and Florida had some of the biggest declines in new delinquencies.

The figures probably mark “the beginning of the end” of the crisis, said Jay Brinkmann, the trade group’s chief economist. However, more than 15 percent of homeowners with a mortgage have missed at least one payment or are in foreclosure, a record. Worse, nearly half of all delinquent borrowers were at least three months behind on their payments, up from a typical level of less than 20 percent.

“The bad news is that we still have a big problem,” Brinkmann said. “The good news is it looks like it may not get much bigger.” That’s because the percentage of borrowers who missed just one payment on their home loans fell to 3.6 percent in the October-to-December quarter from 3.8 percent in the third quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

That decline was even more surprising because delinquencies usually rise at that time of year due to higher heating bills and holiday spending. In another encouraging sign, the number of borrowers who had missed at least one payment but were not yet in foreclosure also fell for the first time since the beginning of 2007.

Banks are delaying the foreclosure process, traditionally between four and six months, as they evaluate borrowers for help under the Obama administration’s $75 billion mortgage-relief effort. It lowers borrowers payments to as low as 2 percent for five years and extends loan terms to as long as 40 years.

But experts warn that hundreds of thousands of borrowers will not be eligible or will not complete the process. So far, only 116,300 borrowers out of 1 million who enrolled have had the terms of their mortgages changed permanently.

Despite the government’s efforts, there may be 6 million foreclosed homes that are put on the market over the next three years, according to Barclays Capital. Timing is key. If banks unload them suddenly, “it will be much more detrimental to the housing recovery than if it’s a slow, gradual bleed,” said Michelle Meyer, a Barclays economist.

On Friday, Obama announced that housing agencies in the five hardest-hit states of Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada will receive $1.5 billion in financial rescue money. It will go to local programs to help unemployed homeowners, “under water” borrowers who owe more than their home is worth, or to give lenders incentives to assist borrowers with second mortgages.

The programs will need to be approved by the Treasury Department. “Government alone can’t solve this problem,” Obama said. “But government can make a difference.” In a briefing with reporters, administration officials acknowledged that the effort was just a small one. But they said it could help develop broader national solutions. “What we’re trying to do here is foster innovation,” said Herbert Allison, an assistant Treasury secretary.

Associated Press Writer Ben Feller in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

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Foreclosure Workshop Scheduled for Homeowners


HARTFORDThe Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Hope Now Alliance and Neighborworks America are sponsoring a foreclosure prevention workshop at the Connecticut Convention Center this Thursday.
Eric Rosengren, president and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston will join Gov. Jodi Rell on Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m  to kick off the event.

Rell, citing the state’s unemployment rate, said residents are in need of assistance.

The aim of the workshop, organizers said,  is to prevent foreclosures by bringing borrowers and lenders together to find alternative solutions.

The Connecticut workshop is modeled after the successful event held at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., in August in which about 2,200 borrowers who met with lender representative received loan modifications or work out offers, organizers said.

For more information, call 800-882-1600 or visit theinformedbuyer.org.

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