Distressed Homeowners Seek Mortgage Salvation

New America Media, News Report, Video, Annette Fuentes, Video: Mike Siv Posted: Oct 20, 2009

DALY CITY, Calif. -- Tim Pine and his father drove all the way from Las Vegas to the Cow Palace looking for a miracle to help them keep their four-bedroom home. They worked together as contractors until work dried up in the recession, and their $2,800 monthly mortgage put an ever-tightening stranglehold on their family finances.

“We’ve been paying it, but it’s getting harder and harder,” Pine said.

Pine, 27, was among some 5,000 homeowners who on Friday descended on the behemoth venue known for its rodeos and expos. But instead of entertainment, they came hoping for salvation from the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“We drove here on Wednesday night and we’ve been sleeping in the car,” Pine said.

Neighborhood Assistance Corporation from New America Media on Vimeo.

Friday was the first of a five-day event called “Save the Dream” that the organization has been staging in cities around the country.

As the home foreclosure epidemic claims more victims, homeowners are turning to loan modification programs in growing numbers. Many are small-scale community operations. But the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America is doing it on a gargantuan scale. The group assembles hundreds of trained housing counselors who provide free, one-on-one assistance for homeowners who are struggling with paying their mortgages, or who are at risk of losing their homes. More importantly, the organization has wrangled agreements with the key lending institutions holding troubled mortgages, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase. Its counselors can go directly to the lenders to request loan modifications that reduce mortgage payments from impossibly high to affordable.

A “Save the Dream” event in Los Angeles last month drew about 45,000 people, said C.J. Harris, an NACA organizer based in Oakland. Ten thousand people pre-registered for the Daly City event, and Harris expected a five-day turnout similar to that of Los Angeles’.

“It is a national crisis,” he said.

Maurice Thomas, 55, said his family’s crisis began when he decided to take a leap to become self-employed as a software programmer.

“I worked for Oracle, HP and small companies you’ve never heard of,” Thomas said. “Under normal conditions, I had a steady job. Then my software skills got soft.”

With a son at Arizona State University and the mortgage on his Danville, Calif., home getting harder to handle, Thomas and his wife fell behind six months on payments. They filed for bankruptcy to avoid losing their home. But, Thomas said, “We’re still in over our heads.”

He heard from relatives that “Save the Dream” was coming to the San Francisco Bay Area and arrived at 11:30 a.m. to see if he could find help that so far had been elusive. By 3:00 p.m., he had been through a two-hour orientation and met with a housing counselor, but the outcome was uncertain.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America boasts a success rate of up to 80 percent in helping distressed homeowners, but Harris acknowledges that not everyone leaves the event with a resolution.

“Some people will walk in and get a solution the same day, or they get extreme clarity on what the next step will be,” he said. “The larger thing I find is to establish some hope.”

Garvin Lohman and his wife, Janice, bought their first home in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco five years ago with an adjustable rate mortgage that is going to balloon higher than their incomes can afford.

“We were led down the garden path,” said Garvin as they waited for their turn to meet with counselors.

Garvin tried unsuccessfully for three years to get their lender, Wachovia, to modify the loan. Last year, Janice was laid off from her job at Blue Shield.

“You get deeper and deeper into a hole,” she said.

They heard about the event on the evening news and came with the simple goal of making their mortgage payments affordable.

The floor of the Cow Palace was converted into a mass customer service dispensary, with row after row of desks staffed by counselors meeting with homeowners carrying bundles of documents. At a podium on one side, a worker would occasionally interrupt the quiet discussions with a loudspeaker announcement about another success story. A Josh from Davis stepped up to declare that he’d just fixed his mortgage problem by reducing his monthly payment from $1,600 to $1,300, thanking the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America and God. Cheers went up from the stands.

Hundreds of volunteers wearing marigold yellow T-shirts emblazoned with “Stop Loan Sharks” kept people moving and answered questions. Carlos Medina was one of them. By volunteering, the resident of Woodland, near Sacramento, Calif., was promised expedited help in modifying his monthly mortgage payments down from $3,100.

“I bought my house two years ago for $425,000 and now it’s worth $250,000,” Medina said. “I’m right on the border. And I’m helping my daughter out, too.”

Medina retired four years ago from his union job at PG&E, but like many others, the economic crash has made his retirement a financial hardship. He hoped to sign a loan modification agreement on Saturday morning to lower his interest rate from 7.25 percent to 2 percent.

Vincent Nguyen and Hanh Le quietly celebrated their successful loan modification, as they left Cow Palace with their toddler in tow. They’d begun the process with a counselor in Los Angeles, where they live, but had to drive up to San Francisco to confirm the deal with Bank of America, their lender.

“We owned our house for five years and for four years we never had a problem,” Le said. “We only bought what we could afford from the beginning.” They had a conventional mortgage with a fixed rate loan, but then the recession hit. A software engineer, Nguyen was laid off from his job. Le’s job as a dental hygienist was cut back to part time.

“We were a year behind in payments when we heard about NACA,” said Nguyen.

The couple tried to get help from the bank, which took over their mortgage from the failed Countrywide Bank, but they didn’t get anywhere. “Without NACA we didn’t know who to turn to,” said Le.

Their new loan agreement reduces the interest on their mortgage from 6.25 to 3 percent, and cuts their monthly payments by $500, they said. They are now true believers in the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

“Now, we want to do the volunteering,” said Nguyen. “We’d like to help other people like us.”

Related Articles:

Fighting Foreclosures, ACORN Defends Homeowners

'Foreclosure Alley' Easy Pickings for Mortgage Scammers

Recession Continues to Curb Blacks' Dream of Home Ownership

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User Comments


Erlinda Ranches on Nov 07, 2009 at 09:39:11 said:

Thank you for the above letter.There is hope for the american people if only banks would set rules that is realistic to homeowners .Our economy has lead us to be in this situation.It is now a problem to every american.Please help us.


Dave H. on Nov 02, 2009 at 19:20:19 said:

As many folks report very few NACA approvals actually result in modifications. They are thrilled thinking they have been successful until they find out they can't reach NACA and the servicers ignore the NACA "deals".

Many servicers are finding any excuse they can to foreclose instead of modify because the servicers make more money by foreclosing. It is the investor (often Fannie or Freddie i.e. taxpayers) that lose. The servicers get fees for foreclosing, managing the property owned and reselling it

Many lawyers, consumer groups and recently a Congressional Oversight Committee has pointed out the servicer problems.

Instead of doing more for desperate homeowners who should qualify for the HAMP program, new money is being allocated for tax credits for new buyers instead of fixing HAMP for the millions with families in crisis trying to save their homes.

It is common to have to resend the same documents many times as the servicers either intentionally lose them or are just too
overwhelmed. Than they claim in the media, that they aren't getting the documents that have been mailed or faxed repeatedly.

There is a huge amount of documentation needed first to get confirmed on the trial and then another set that is about the same thing again only this time notarized. And both sets are often lost by the servicers. Plus they often toss in more hard or impossible to meet requirements not needed under the HAMP directives.

If you are denied a final modification after typically 5-6 months paying the 31% trial rate, often for reasons not part of the requirements, they can foreclose and sell your home immediately with no further notice. That power to foreclose and sell is even in the Trial Agreement document you have to sign.

What is a good program is a total disaster because of these problems


bankofamerica victim on Oct 29, 2009 at 18:11:12 said:

Peition Links

www.petition2congress.com/2/2564/

www.petitiononline.com/loansafe/petition.html


bankofamerica victim on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:29:24 said:

Peition Links

www.petition2congress.com/2/2564/

www.petitiononline.com/loansafe/petition.html


bankofamerica victim on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:26:09 said:

PETITION TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FROM AMERICAN HOMEOWNERS


We the undersigned strongly advocate that the Federal Government create immediate, transparent and more equitable regulations for the banking industry regarding loan modifications and pending foreclosures, particularly in regards to HAMP and 2MP. Tens of thousands of homeowners across this nation have spent hundreds of hours dealing with mortgage servicers who have little incentive to actually help them/us achieve permanent loan modifications; while in the process of obtaining a modification, many homeowners have been lied to, misled, foreclosed upon or threatened with foreclosure.

We propose an immediate halt to all foreclosures until new, mandatory guidelines are established and that these guidelines be overseen by a new Consumer Protection Agency, which was recently recommended by President Obama and endorsed by Sheila Bair, chair of the FDIC. We also demand that these guidelines include not only a simple 31% of the borrower’s gross monthly income, but that the Net Present Value (NPV) test: (a) be created and administered by the government, not the banks, (b) have its data, assumptions and formula published so that they may be verified by the public, and (c) be made available at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov in a calculator form so that people can learn immediately, with the other eligibility questions available there now, whether they're eligible for HAMP. We are also strongly advocating that additional guidelines be formulated that would open the door for modifications at an even a lower rate in significant hardship conditions and for rightdowns of principal when homes are severely underwater .

We propose there be clear and enforceable guidelines regarding the time between the initial request for a modification and the achievement of a permanent modification, and that there be no reward to the bank for a trial modification. The rewards, if any, should be only for successful permanent modifications.

There is documented evidence that the current system is not working, as reflected in the rising foreclosure rates across the nation and the thousands of people who attend NACA “Save the Dream” events in an attempt to get their loans modified. There is ample evidence that the current HAMP and other modification guidelines are being interpreted differently by each bank, reflected in many places including the scenarios described by the 20,000+ members of the loansafe.org community. Additional evidence can be found in hundreds if not thousands of complaints and requests for assistance sent by struggling homeowners to their Senators and Congressmen across the country, as well as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and other agencies that have been instituted to regulate these banks.

Mr. Bryan Bolton, SVP of CitiMortgage, has stated that “modifying within HAMP guidelines is in the best interests of our borrowers, our country and our company. With or without fees, it’s almost always in the best interests of the servicers to modify.” Unfortunately, these are empty words. Mr. Bolton, like so many other CEO’s, tells Congress one thing, while he and they continue to do quite the opposite.

Tougher mandates need to be placed on these banks that are simply not modifying loans at the rate they could or have been perpetuating to Congress and the media.


Homeowners are not the ones not complying with the rules. The banks are creating their own set of rules and regulations and are consistently “losing” paperwork during the application process, denying modifications for unjustifiable reasons after the trial payments have been successfully completed, and proceeding with the foreclosure process. This is often happening unbeknownst to the homeowners who are still faxing, mailing and e-mailing reams of duplicated documentation as requested by their lenders.

The American Dream has now become the American Nightmare courtesy of the banking industry, which is taking a cavalier approach to the stress, heartache and despair caused by the current lack of oversight, transparency and enforcement of loan modifications. It is of the utmost importance that action be taken to correct this travesty in order to preserve home ownership for the thousands of Americans that are and will continue to be struggling in this economic time.

We urge your swift and immediate action

There are 2 petitions. Use each link below to sign:
PETITION TO THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FROM AMERICAN HOMEOWNERS | Petition2Congress |

TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FROM AMERICAN HOMEOWNERS Petition


celine pastor on Oct 20, 2009 at 03:13:53 said:

It was comforting to see there are still honest non-profits trying their best to serve our homeowners in deep crisis.
But there are still non-profits company using the shell of non-profits to cover their loan modification business and charging homeowners thousands of dollars even their house is already auctioned and title have changed to the bank. Vision of Faith & Home Protection Group (HPG) charged my dad's friend an outrageous amount $4,000 and made him paid by cashier check. They said they can modify his loan even his home was auctioned month ago.
Too bad for him that NACA came to late to the Bay Area and not many people know about it to get help.

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