2008-06-27 / Top Stories

Paterson, Legislature Set Agreement On Mortgages

Governor David A. Paterson has announced an agreement with the Legislature to pass a critical subprime lending reform bill which will directly address the mortgage crisis in New York State by immediately helping to protect people from losing their homes and by mandating reforms which will help avoid another similar crisis in the future.

"I commend both the Senate and Assembly for coming together and passing comprehensive legislation that will protect the citizens of New York who are in real danger of losing their homes," said Governor Paterson. "While private sector efforts are an important part of the solution, they are inadequate to address a housing crisis of this magnitude. The latest numbers show that this is getting worse in New York, and with this bill we can finally move towards protecting homeowners in ways that have not been possible until now."

The subprime bill will help save thousands of New Yorkers from losing their homes. Data from the New York State Banking Department shows that approximately one in 200 New York homes is in the foreclosure process. Some areas of New York - such as Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island - are being disproportionately impacted. In Upstate New York, Monroe and Albany counties are among the hardest hit. The bill also takes into consideration the importance of striking the right balance between consumer protection and the availability of affordable credit. Assist People Currently Facing Foreclosure

The immediate focus of the bill is on existing homeowners facing foreclosure: - The bill requires lenders to send a

pre-foreclosure notice to borrowers at least 90 days before foreclosure proceedings may be initiated. This will encourage homeowners to seek help prior to the initiation of foreclosure proceedings. The bill would also require lenders to list in the notice

government approved housing counselors

serving the borrower's area. - The bill establishes a mandatory settlement

conference for foreclosure proceedings involving homeowners with certain subprime loans. For homeowners who cannot afford an

attorney, the court under certain circumstances,

may appoint one. - The bill requires plaintiffs in an

action against a homeowner to make an affirmative allegation that they have standing to bring the foreclosure action and have complied with certain applicable laws. Ownership of the mortgage and the note is sometimes uncertain, which has

lead to questionable foreclosure

practices. - The bill includes provisions to

address foreclosure rescue scams intended to take advantage of borrowers when they are most vulnerable. This bill will prohibit upfront fees and require a written contract

from so-called "distressed property

consultants." Avoid Another Crisis In The Future

There are additional elements in the bill that are designed to prevent future crises: - The bill enacts a new provision in the

Banking Law to establish strong consumer protections for subprime

loans and minimum underwriting

standards that protect borrowers. - Ascertaining the borrower's ability to

pay is a basic tenet of prudent lending. The bill establishes an ability to pay standard requiring lenders to make a reasonable and good faith determination of the borrower's ability to repay the loan, including the

principal, interest, taxes, insurance,

assessments, points and fees. - The duty of care feature of the bill

requires brokers to act in the borrower's

interest by presenting loans

most appropriate for the borrower. - All mortgage servicers servicing loans

on residential property in New York would be required to register with

the Banking Department.

In May, Governor Paterson visited Washington D.C. to urge the state's Congressional Delegation to work towards a federal solution to the lending crisis, which would compliment efforts in New York. On that trip, the Governor stressed that in order to aid homeowners and prevent a similar crisis from happening again, legislation needs to be passed on both the state and federal levels.

"I continue to wait for action from the Federal Government to address this crisis," said Governor Paterson. "We cannot solve the problem alone. We have done our part on the state level, and now we need comprehensive legislation from Washington as well."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "Homeownership is one of the most basic American dreams, but the pursuit of this dream has resulted in a nightmare for the many borrowers who were enticed with subprime loans that they can no longer afford," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "One of the Assembly's first orders of business this session was to bring meaningful relief to the tens of thousands New York homeowners struggling to hang on to their homes. We proposed a muchneeded mix of direct financial assistance, support for counseling and legal services, and active lender participation in solving this problem. I am very pleased together with the governor's leadership, New Yorkers will receive the type comprehensive relief we have been fighting for."

Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm A. Smith said: "Nearly 125,000 New York families will face foreclosure his year. For the thousands of families caught in the sub-prime lending crisis, this agreement couldn't have come soon enough. I commend Governor Paterson, the Assembly and the efforts of my Senate Colleagues on addressing the short-term challengers of homeowners already in foreclosure, as well as, closing the legal loopholes that allowed predatory lenders to victimize homeowners."

Assembly Banking Committee Chair Darryl C. Towns said: "For more than a year, through public hearings and comprehensive legislative packages, the Assembly Majority has been sounding the alarm on the negative impact of the sub-prime mortgage on communities throughout New York State. What we found were a large number of questionable lending practices such as interest-only mortgages and mortgages made with little or no income verification. While these schemes have helped drive the homeownership rate in the United States to a record 70 percent, they have also placed millions of Americans, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color, at risk for foreclosure,"

Substantial new programs to fund homeowner counseling have already been established in New York State, including the Subprime Foreclosure Prevention Services Program, a $25 million statewide program approved by the Legislature. This program includes grants and aid to non-profits to provide financial counseling, mediation, legal representation, negotiation, and other support services to borrowers who are facing default or foreclosure.

Additionally, the State Foreclosure Prevention Working Group is a multistate task force working with subprime mortgage loan servicers to reduce the number of unnecessary foreclosures by encouraging loan modifications and other sustainable longterm solutions.

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