2007-07-27 / Community

Locals With Foreclosure Problems Urged To Call Comptroller's Office

Stating that more than 1,100 people have called his office asking for help, New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. unveiled new public service announcements this week to help New Yorkers confronted with losing their homes amid the national subprime mortgage crisis.

"We must do all that is possible to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure and losing what is so valuable to their families and their lives," Thompson said. "This is a problem that is not going away anytime soon, and so we must all work together to find solutions and get people help they often desperately need."

In the radio and television public service announcements, Thompson encourages New Yorkers to call his Foreclosure Prevention Helpline at (212) 669-4600 to talk with staff members and learn about resources to overcome their mortgage obstacles. You can view the spots at www.comptroller.nyc.gov.

Since its inception on April 26, the helpline has received 1,150 calls from New Yorkers - and others from the broader tri-state region - struggling to hold onto their homes and cut costs.

The Helpline can link callers with United States Department of Housing and Urban Development certified counselors in specific neighborhoods. The Comptroller's staff then monitors each case to ensure help is provided.

"This Helpline connects those in need with various organizations with an expertise in banking and housing. I encourage any homeowner confronted with swelling bills and a diminishing ability to pay to call my office," Thompson said. "We are here to help."

The 1,150 calls primarily have come from New York City, although staffers with Thompson's Community Action Center have fielded inquiries from New Jersey, Connecticut and even Florida.

Most of the calls - 45 percent (518) - are coming from Queens. Additionally, 32 percent (366) of the calls are from Brooklyn, 15 percent (175) from Staten Island, seven percent (80) from the Bronx, and one percent (11) from Manhattan.

Recent reports show that New York City's foreclosure rate is not as steep as in other large urban areas, but nevertheless the subprime crisis is not subsiding and substantially affects many New York City neighborhoods.

Foreclosure auctions in New York City increased 19 percent from the second quarter of 2006 through the second quarter of this year, it was reported this month. These numbers pale in comparison to Miami and Los Angeles, where auctions jumped 146 and 202 percent.

Thompson pointed out that many callers indicate that they initially entered into Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) loans with low initial payments and manageable monthly payments.

"However, when the interest rate and monthly payment changes take effect, usually within two years, the ARM interest rate can increase drastically and continue to climb by more than one percent and up to a maximum of 16.1percent throughout the terms of the loans in some instances," he said.

"As a result, monthly payments balloon hundreds of dollars, costing thousands of dollars more each year. These monthly payments simply become unmanageable and can mean that a family will lose their home."

The new announcements are designed to help such families in need. The radio spots are in English and Spanish, and encourage New Yorkers to get "the help and guidance you need. Please, don't let your dream of homeownership turn into a nightmare of foreclosure."

The spots are expected to run on local television, cable T.V. and radio stations.

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