City of Boston, Department of Neighborhood Development
In October 2006, Mayor Menino announced a major expansion of the city's foreclosure prevention initiative that includes a refinancing consortium and an expansion of foreclosure counseling services offered through the city's Boston Home Center. The lender consortium, called the First Choice Lenders, included 6 banks that adhere to model loan origination and foreclosure prevention business practices; help refinance people out of bad loans; and, provide financial backing to the Foreclosure Prevention Fund that supports foreclosure prevention counseling and financial assistance. In 2007, homeowners have refinanced out of $3 million in bad loans through the First Choice Lenders.
In 2006, The Boston Home Center increased its counseling services by making available up to $350,000 to expand the capacity of existing partner agencies ESAC (Ensuring Stability through Action in our Community) and HOME (Homeowner Options For Massachusetts Elders) and establishing new foreclosure counseling capacity at Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, Urban Edge, and Mattapan Family Service Center. In 2007, the City expanded its efforts to include a fifth agency, ACORN, to provide foreclosure counseling services. Homeowners are directed to first call the City's HOME Center at 617-635-4663 and are then directed to a counseling agency.
In addition, the City of Boston has placed ads in bus shelters and billboards encouraging homeowners in trouble to call the HOME Center to seek help. The City has expanded its educational services to include "Meet the Lenders" workshops to help homeowners and homebuyer connect with First Choice Lenders and two new seminars "Can You Really Afford That Mortgage" and "What Homeowners Need to Know About Foreclosures, Before It's Too Late". The seminars are being direct marketed to homeowners that have taken out loans from subprime lenders.
Mayor Menino announced on February 14, 2008 that he has formed a Foreclosure Intervention Team (FIT). FIT members include the many City agencies who deal with all issues that surround foreclosure and abandonment, including Boston Police, Inspectional Services, Department of Neighborhood Development, Public Health Commission, Corporation Counsel, Public Works and Public Property. The Team will work in targeted neighborhoods plagued by foreclosure to identify the owners of these properties in order to hold them accountable and to get moving on future renovations and sales. The Hendry, Coleman and Clarkson streets area is the focus of the first FIT project.
In addition to efforts by the HOME Center, other City of Boston departments have begun education and outreach efforts to tenants in the City to inform them of their rights if their landlords are foreclosed on.
More information about the City of Boston's program can be found at www.cityofboston.gov/dnd/hbs/C_Foreclosure_Prevention.asp.
City of Brockton
The City of Brockton formed a Task Force on Housing and Foreclosure Prevention that is comprised of city officials, local banks and non-profit organizations. The Task Force held a mortgage clinic for homeowners on February 12, 2008 to help homeowners understand their mortgage terms and get support if they are experiencing difficulty paying their mortgage.
Brockton Housing Partnership, a consortium of 13 local banks, credit union, and non-profit agencies developed a foreclosure hotline (508-586-6080) for homeowners to call and leave a message. The message is returned by a staff member who speaks the homeowners language (English, Spanish, Portuguese and French) and the homeowner is referred the counseling or financial education programs.
Southeastern Massachusetts Affordable Housing Corporation, an affiliate of the Brockton Housing Authority (BHA), is partnering with the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation (PPFCF) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to revitalize distressed properties and provide housing and services for 18 low income families
SEMAHC, with the BHA, will acquire six distressed, triple decker, bank-owned buildings in need of rehabilitation and turn them into 18 units of family housing. The families will participate in the Brockton Housing Authority's Housing Choice Section 8 voucher program and will be enrolled in the BHA's Family Self-Sufficiency program.
City of Lawrence
The City of Lawrence's Community Development Department coordinates the Lawrence Housing Partnership which includes housing counselors and advocates, legal services attorneys, and area lenders interested in working on the foreclosure crisis in Lawrence. The Partnership acts as a clearinghouse for outreach efforts in the City and a way for different departments and agencies to touch base and share ideas. Initially, the Housing Partnership held quarterly "mortgage check-up clinics" where local lenders and counselors meet with homeowners to help them understand their current mortgage terms, understand their options and how to keep their mortgages healthy. The Partnership's non-profit partners are now developing orientation in take sessions for homeowners seeking counseling services on foreclosure. The City recently funded local non-profits to provide foreclosure counseling with CDBG funds.
The City of Lawrence has also formed a Task Force surrounding fire safety and securing abandoned properties. Coordinated by the Mayor's Office and the Planning Department, the Task Force is working with the fire department, police department and inspectional services to require lenders to register foreclosed properties with the City in order for the City to ensure the properties are appropriately maintained. The City is planning to explore ways to acquire some of these properties.
City of Lowell
In 2006, lenders, housing advocates, the City of Lowell and others formed the Lowell Foreclosure Prevention Task Force. The Task Force was formed to aid homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The Task Force provides free counseling through its non-profit partners and helps eligible homeowners with risky loans to refinance through reputable lenders. The Task Force has recently partnered with the national 888-995-HOPE hotline and refers homeowners to counselors at either Coalition for a Better Acre or Community Teamwork Inc, both non-profit counseling agencies in Lowell. The counselor will work with homeowners to find programs that meet their needs.
The Task Force has formed a triage committee to assist homeowners that may not qualify for existing refinance programs. The triage committee will try to refer homeowners with a mortgage program at a Lowell bank or, if necessary, the committee will also refer the homeowner to the Lowell Development Financing Corporation, which is offering loans of up to $10,000 to help income-eligible borrowers refinance out of bad loans and into good ones. The funds may be used to cover closing costs, pay prepayment penalties, or build equity, and can be paid back over 10 years. Applicants must agree to participate in a financial counseling program to receive a financing corporation loan, which carries a 5 percent interest rate.
Members of the Task Force include AmeriHome Mortgage, City of Lowell City Council, City of Lowell, DPD, City of Lowell City Manager's Office, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Corporation, Coalition for a Better Acre, Community Housing, Inc., Community Teamwork, Inc., Congresswoman Tsongas's Office, Enterprise Bank, Jeanne D'Arc Credit Union, Lowell Development Financial Corporation, MassBank, MassHousing, Merrimack Valley Housing Partnership, Merrimack Valley Project, Northern Middlesex Registry of Deeds – Registrar's Office, One Lowell, TD Banknorth, and the UMass Lowell Center for Family, Work and Community.
City of Worcester
City of Worcester City Manager Michael V. O'Brien has unveiled a comprehensive action plan aimed at dealing with vulnerable properties and protecting the local housing stock.
The plan, called "SAVE (Stabilize – Assist – Value – Enforce) Our Neighborhoods," focuses on three areas:
- Foreclosure Education, Prevention and Management: The NeighborWorks Homeownership Center of Worcester was designated as a foreclosure counseling center as part of the National Hope Hotline (888-995-HOPE) and the Worcester City Council has re-allocated CDBG block grant funds to support staffing at the Homeownership Center. SAVE Our Neighborhoods will also focus on the need for "receivers" to hold properties where the owners have walked away but the mortgage holder has yet to acquire the property by foreclosure deed. The receivership arrangement is intended to ensure responsible management of the properties, allowing tenants to remain, until the property is transferred to a new owner. SAVE Our Neighborhoods will recommend that CDBG funds be used to support this effort.
- Reorganizing City Government for Improved Regulation of Property: The plan creates a new singular inspectional services agency to monitor private property. The new entity, the Department of Inspectional Services, would enforce state Building Codes, Housing and Sanitary Codes and public health laws as well as City ordinances that preserve the condition of private property and the safety of Worcester residents. The Department would include the following existing City Divisions: Division of Buildings and Zonings, Division of Housing, and Division of Health Inspections and would be headed by a Commissioner of Inspectional Services, a Cabinet-level position reporting directly to the City Manager. This new Department request has been submitted to the City Council for review.
- Enhanced Enforcement and Monitoring of Current and Potential Problem Properties: Under the direction of the Commissioner of Inspectional Services, this multi-department initiative, the Property Review Team (PRT), will track properties flagged by inspectional services due to public safety concerns, deteriorating condition and/or negative neighborhood impacts. PRT will work with the new Department of Inspectional Services, the Worcester Police Department, Worcester Fire Department, the License Commission, the Divisions of Economic and Neighborhood Development, the Law Department, the Treasurer's Office and the Department of Public Works and Parks.
The Worcester Division of Technical Assistance has developed a Property Analysis Database that will be a single repository for permitting, inspection, public safety, legal, and financial information from City Departments. PRT can use this database to review at-risk properties, including information about properties that have been foreclosed or about to be foreclosed.
More information about SAVE Our Neighborhoods, including the action plan, can be found on the City of Worcester's website: www.ci.worcester.ma.us/.