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    Office Of The Mayor

    ROOF PROJECT ANNOUNCES 2008 ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND 2009 ROADMAP

    (1/29/2009) NEW HAVEN- Many families in New Haven have found themselves difficult situations in 2008 as they risked losing their home to foreclosure. An effort has been strong in New Haven to make families aware of services available to them through a program called the Real Options, Overcoming Foreclosures (ROOF) Project. Through counseling at the Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, ROOF’s lead counseling partner, numerous families have been able to save their homes from foreclosure. At a news conference today in a neighborhood that has been significantly affected by the foreclosure crisis, Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. and Eva Heintzelman, Program Manager of ROOF, announced the success of the program in 2008 and goals for 2009.

    ROOF, an effort initiated by DeStefano last spring to serve families in danger of losing their homes after the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage industry, is built on a network of community organizations, faith-based groups, and public and private resources and the resources of City staff. ROOF is a collaboration of the City of New Haven Livable City Initiative, Yale Law Clinic, the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund, Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven and other community organizations, providing a coordinated response to the increasing number of home foreclosures in New Haven.

    About 25% of outstanding loans in New Haven are subprime loans yet, subprime loans account for the majority of foreclosures. Further, about 5% of all outstanding loans in New Haven are in foreclosure, compared to about 2% for the State of CT. Residential foreclosures in New Haven have increased by 150% over 2007 from 165 to 410 and by 630% over 2006, based on preliminary estimates for 2008.

    “The foreclosure crisis is affecting communities nationwide,” said DeStefano. “But in New Haven, we’re working together to minimize the impact, help families before they reach the point of foreclosure and educate our residents about creating wealth, understanding what they can afford and making trusted counseling services available to families in trouble. This project involves a number of strong partners reaching out to families in need and helping to protect the vitality of our neighborhoods.”

    Since its inception ROOF has focused on prevention by helping borrowers before foreclosures are filed, providing essential assistance to borrowers in foreclosure.

    In 2008 ROOF has:

    - Launched a marketing campaign to encourage homeowners to use the free and trustworthy resources available to help them keep their homes. ROOF has encouraged homeowners to work with a HUD-approved foreclosure intervention counselors to evaluate their options. Homeowners in foreclosure are advised to sign up for the court mediation program; this program puts borrowers at the negotiating table with someone representing their lender and a court-appointed mediator.

    - ROOF has sent letters and mailings to homeowners with subprime or adjustable rate mortgages and to all homeowners in foreclosure warning them of their risks and offering intervention services.

    -ROOF has made significant efforts to educate homewoners throughout the City about their services by included informational flyers in public school orientation packets and property tax mailings and distributing information in public locations such as libraries.

    -ROOF has coordinated homeowner outreach events at City Hall and in hard-hit neighborhoods working with city neighborhood specialists and management teams to get the word out.

    ROOF has found that since the kick-off in May, more people are seeking help and seeking help earlier. “Many people call before they are in foreclosure but recognize that they will have trouble as soon as rates on their adjustable rate mortgage go up,” said Heintzelman. “NHS holds a foreclosure clinic every week for homeowners worried about making mortgage payments. About 30-45 new people come each week seeking help.”

    Through ROOF’s efforts, counselors at NHS and the Greater New Haven Community Loan Fund are currently helping 195 homeowners in New Haven. Counselors also help to link homeowners with other resources available to assist them.

    “The state has set up a great court mediation program for homeowners who find themselves in foreclosure court and it has had great success in helping homeowners negotiate a solution with their lender, while also working with a counselor,” said Sameera Fazili with the Yale Law School Clinic.

    In its interaction with concerned homeowners, ROOF has also come across homeowners being targeted by foreclosure rescue scammers. These scams often charge hefty upfront fees and offer to help with refinances and loan modifications. Heintzelman cautions, “Homeowners need to be very cautious.”

    Through ROOF’s counseling services, many homeowners have negotiated sustainable loan modifications. These loans modifications lower interest rates for 5 years and in some cases for as long as 30 years. ROOF services have kept nearly 80% of families, who have sought assistance, in their homes with many other cases in the process of achieving loan modifications and other interventions.

    Continuing its successful interventions from 2008 with an emphasis on preventing foreclosures, ROOF announced today its goals for 2009:

    - Step up message to homeowners warning them about foreclosure scammers and the importance of working with a HUD-approved counselor.

    - Continue linking more homeowners with counseling and the court mediation program, still the best method to avoid foreclosure. Remind homeowners that the landscape is changing every day, and that counselors are their window to new federal and state programs to help homeowners.

    “Our main message as we begin a new year is that no one has to go through this alone. If you are in trouble with your mortgage, there are people who want to work with you to help you find the best options available to you,” said DeStefano. “Working together, we can help to cap the number of vacant structures in our City and keep families in their homes.”

    The City of New Haven together with its collaborating partners has applied for the 3.2 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds allocated by the State of Connecticut. These funds will be used to stabilize our neighborhoods impacted by the increasing number of vacant foreclosed properties. These funds in accordance with the HUD approved State of Connecticut Action Plan can be used for acquisition, redevelopment, financing mechanisms and/or demolition of foreclosed properties. We will also be seeking additional funding and project over a two year period we will be able to, re develop 60-100 foreclosed properties and sell them to low moderate middle income homeowners or manage as rentals.

    Residents in need of counseling or other assistance to avoid a foreclosure are encouraged to call 211 (the United Way hotline) where they will be referred to a ROOF partner for assistance and to visit the ROOF Project website at www.theroofproject.org. General inquiries about this program can be made at 203-401-3377.

    [END]

    Contact Name: Jessica Mayorga

    Contact Email: jmayorga@newhavenct.net

    Contact Phone: 203-946-7660


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