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Borrowers: Foreclosure checks a raw deal – U

San Diego County borrowers are starting to receive cash payments from major banks for alleged mortgage abuses. Recipients are gladly depositing the checks, but many are dissatisfied with the amounts, which cannot be disputed.

“I got a $400 check without any real explanation than just, ‘This is the final payment,’ ” said Carmel Valley resident Jack Hollenbach.

Hollenbach, 57, underwent a double-lung transplant, rendering him unable to work and keep up with his mortgage payments. After 18 months of negotiations, his bank did grant him a new monthly payment, except it was $200 higher than the original amount, he said. He could not afford the new payment, and he lost his home to foreclosure.

Hollenbach’s check is among more than 4 million payments that are being mailed out to consumers in waves. Those cash payments, totaling $3.6 billion, are part of a deal between 11 major banks and federal regulators that settle allegations of mortgage abuses that may have occurred in 2009 and 2010.

Those years mark the height of robo-signing, the process of approving foreclosure documents with little or no approval.

Rhett Edwards, of Allied Gardens, also is disappointed in how much he got through the settlement, which was $1,000.

Edwards struggled to pay his mortgage after shattering his arm in a work-related accident. His bank instructed him to fall behind on his payments for three months to qualify for a loan modification, he said.

For the next year, he was repeatedly turned down for a modification. He finally got caught up with back-payments and fees after coming up with $20,000, part of which came from family, and saved his home.

“I was hoping for $20,000 (in restitution) … when you really look at the damage they’ve done to me,” Edwards said.

But borrowers like Hollenbach and Edwards cannot challenge their compensation amounts.

“The payment is final,” the boilerplate letters read. “There is no process to appeal the payment.”

The lack of transparency of how those payments were decided isn’t just a concern among borrowers receiving the checks. They’re also a concern for some DC lawmakers, who have been unsuccessful in extracting settlement details from regulators.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, has introduced a bill that would appoint an independent third party to oversee the payment process and get answers.

“Regulators refuse to provide even the most basic information about the extent of the abuses that were uncovered,” said Cummings in a statement.

“Since federal regulators now plan to rely on these banks to determine payouts and deliver settlement funds to borrowers, we need an Independent Monitor to bring transparency and accountability to this process,” Cummings added.

The foreclosure settlement has encountered several issues since its inception.

It actually began as a process that allowed borrowers to request free foreclosure reviews with the possibility of restitution if problems were found. Complications and lack of participation killed the program, making way for the mass settlement.

Payments, ranging from $300 to $125,000, have been mailed out by banks through a consultant, Rust, since mid-April.

Borrowers can call Rust at (888) 952-9105 if they have any questions about possible payment or payment issues.

Email me: | Tweet me: @LilyShumLeung. | Facebook me. | Subscribe to this blog.

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CalHFA Receives $1.3M in Federal Funding to Help Homeowners Avoid …

(Source: CalHFA) - SACRAMENTO – The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) today announced that it will receive nearly $1.3 million in additional federal dollars to provide free counseling to homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure. This is the seventh federal grant to CalHFA and its long-time partner in this effort, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.

The additional $1.3 million will support statewide efforts to provide counseling services to homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. In total, the state has received more than $19 million since 2008 and helped more than 76,000 families. This additional grant will help provide counseling for 6,100 families.

“While the housing market is rebounding in many parts of California, many who purchased their homes years ago are still struggling to hold on to those homes,” said Claudia Cappio, Executive Director of CalHFA. “We appreciate the opportunity to continue this critical counseling program, one of several ongoing efforts we are involved with to help struggling homeowners in our state.”

The grant was provided by funds from the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program. The National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program is administered through a competitive application process by Neighbor Works® America, within guidelines defined by Congressional legislation.

The free counseling will be available to homeowners who have either fallen behind ontheir mortgages or are in danger of falling behind on their mortgages. Homeowners in those situations can arrange counseling by contacting one of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development-approved counseling agencies in their area.

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February was a less-active month on the foreclosure front, CoreLogic reports

Local home foreclosures rose 21 percent in the first quarter from the fourth quarter.

CoreLogic reports that February was not an active month for foreclosures.

Tricia Lynn Silva
Reporter/Project Coordinator- San Antonio Business Journal

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The number of troubled mortgages — including the number of mortgages entering the foreclosure process — declined between February 2012 and 2013, according to the latest analysis by Irvine, Calif.-based CoreLogic.

At the end of February 2013, 1.13 percent of all outstanding local mortgage loans had entered some stage of the foreclosure process — down from a foreclosure rate of 1.42 percent as of February 2012.

Delinquency rates were also down. At the end of February, 4.02 percent of mortgage loans in the San Antonio/New Braunfels metro were 90 days or more delinquent. By comparison, as of February 2012, 4.56 percent of mortgage loans in the metro area were 90 days or more delinquent.

By comparison, in Texas, 3.9 percent of loans were 90 days or more delinquent — down from 4.64 percent as of February 2012. The foreclosure rate in the Lone Star State stood at 1.16 percent — down from 1.5 percent as of February 2012.

On the national front, the delinquency rate went from 7.17 as of February 2012 to 6.19 percent a year later. The foreclosure rate went from 3.51 percent to 2.85 percent.

Subscribe to the new San Antonio Business Journal Morning Edition at this link.

Tricia Lynn Silva covers real estate, retail, construction, and law firms; she also plans and edits some special reports.

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Four foreclosure auctions set for South Florida commercial properties

Brian Bandell
Senior Reporter- South Florida Business Journal

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Four multimillion dollar commercial properties in South Florida were recently scheduled for foreclosure auctions, and a fifth building just got seized by a loan investor.

In the largest property up for grabs, the owner of three buildings in Wellington Corporate Center lost a $11.5 million foreclosure judgment.

U.S. Bank, representing a commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) trust, won the judgment against Wellington Property Group over an $8.6 million mortgage, plus interest and fees. Christopher Ruddy is the managing member of the borrower, although he wasn’t named in the lawsuit.

The three buildings at 1200, 1300 and 1500 Corporate Center Way are set for online auction May 28. They total 47,264 square feet.

The largest tenant is B/E Aerospace (NYSE: BEAV) with 10,911 square feet, according to CMBS analysis firm Trepp LLC. B/E/ Aerospace owns its headquarters building next door at 1400 Corporate Center Way.

The borrower last reported that the buildings were 72 percent occupied.

Wellington Property Group paid $11.5 million for the buildings in 2007 and they were appraised by the lender at $11.9 million. However, its recent appraisal valued the property at $5.2 million.

Palm Beach Gardens warehouses loses $7M foreclosure

A Palm Beach Gardens warehouse is headed to auction over a $7.2 million foreclosure judgment.

Miami-based Sabadell United Bank won the judgment against Fast Realty over a $6.9 million mortgage, plus interest and fees. The loan was originated by Lydian Private Bank, which later failed.

Lydian twice filed foreclosure lawsuits against Fask Realty and then withdrew them, but Sabadell looks like it’s on the way to seizing the building.

Brian Bandell covers banking, finance, health care and education. Get the latest banking industry news here.

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While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement …

The obscene greed-and-arrogance stories emanating from Wall Street are piling up so fast, it’s getting hard to keep up. This one is from last week, but I missed it – it’s about the foreclosure/robo-signing settlement that was concluded earlier this year.

The upshot of this story is that in advance of that notorious settlement, the government ordered banks to hire “independent” consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.

Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks.

In other words, the government not only ordered the banks to hire consultants who may have gamed the foreclosure settlement in favor of the banks, but the regulators themselves are hiding the information from the public in order to shield the banks from further lawsuits.

Secrets and Lies of the Bailout

To recap: in the foreclosure deal, 13 banks agreed to pay a total of $9.3 billion to settle their liability in a number of areas, including robo-signing, which is just a euphemism for mass-perjury – robo-signing is the practice of having low-level bank employees sign documents attesting to full knowledge of case files in court foreclosure actions, when in fact they were signing hundreds of files per day, often having no idea whether the paperwork was correct or not.

It was done across the industry and turned housing cases across America into nightmares of jumbled and/or forged paperwork, in which even people who did not deserve to be thrown out of their homes were uprooted thanks to systematic errors by faceless bureaucrats who cut legal corners purely to save money.

All the major banks were guilty on a mass scale, but they worked with federal regulators like the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to secure this wide-ranging, industry-saving settlement, which not only covered the robosigning epidemic but a host of other bad or illegal practices, like the wrongful denial of modifications and the improper levying of (often hidden) fees.

Minus this crucial settlement, banks would have faced enormous uncertainty about their legal liability going forward, and getting a deal that not only gave these companies some legal closure but allowed them to pay pennies on the dollar for their illegal activity was a massive coup for the whole finance sector.

Only $3.6 billion was earmarked for cash payments to the nearly 4 million homeowners covered in the settlement. Most of the remainder of the deal was in other forms of non-cash relief, i.e. modifications or principal reductions.

Now, at the time of the deal, press releases by the Fed and the OCC stated that part of the reason they’d fixed on that particular settlement amount was that regulators had uncovered that banks had made errors or committed illegal acts in about 6.5 percent of the mortgage files reviewed. In other words, the error rate was an important component of this calculation.

But it turned out that this error rate had been calculated with the help of several consultant firms regulators had ordered the banks to hire. Regulators had mandated the hiring of these “independent” consultants back in 2011, and the list of companies included Promontory Financial Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst Young, and Deloitte Touche. These private firms were hired to review the banks’ loan files in search of errors, and collectively were paid by the banks over $2 billion, a staggering sum which ultimately worked out to over $20,000 per file.

With such highly-paid help, it would seem impossible that these consultants could screw up so simple a task as figuring out how many of these mortgage files were corrupt. Regulators came up with the 6.5 percent number this past January, then shortly afterward revised the number downward, saying that only 4.2 percent of some 100,000 mortgage files reviewed were compromised.

But that low number stank so badly that even the Wall Street Journal was moved to check it out, and in late February, in a story called “Foreclosure Files Detail Error Gap,” the paper discovered that the error numbers were almost certainly very much higher. From that piece:

A breakdown of the information provided to the regulator shows that more than 11% of files examined for Wells Fargo WFC +0.39% Co. and 9% of those for Bank of America Corp. had errors that would have required compensation for homeowners, said people who have reviewed the figures. A narrower sample of files – representing cases selected by outside consultants – showed error ratios of 21% for Wells Fargo and 16% for Bank of America, the people said.

The OCC findings appear skewed by the outsize contribution of one bank, J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -0.39% Co., which reported an error rate far below rivals that oversaw a much larger universe of loans.

J.P Morgan was responsible for more than half of the completed files counted in the OCC review and reported compensation-worthy errors in just 0.6% of cases, according to people familiar with the figures.

So you have numbers from all of these other banks coming in at 9 percent, 11 percent, even 21 percent, and yet somehow J.P. Morgan Chase came in at 0.6 percent. The OCC just took the Chase numbers and averaged them together with the rest and ultimately came up with the 4.2 percent number.

So how did Chase come out so squeaky clean? Well, it seems they developed quite a rapport with the government-mandated consultants who were hired to review their loan files. This is from that WSJ report:

Two Deloitte employees who performed the review for J.P. Morgan in a Brooklyn office building said workers were encouraged by supervisors to examine pools of loans they knew would be less time-consuming or error-prone as they tried to hit loan quotas.

One of these employees said that at an event last year known in the Brooklyn office as “March Madness,” Deloitte officials encouraged reviewers to avoid problematic loans originated by EMC Mortgage, a troubled mortgage lender J.P. Morgan acquired in 2008.

So basically Chase allegedly warned the consultants off their problem loans and incentivized the consultants to examine the less-fucked-up loans. Employees of another of Chase’s auditors, Promontory, were reportedly given gift cards of up to $500 for “completing a certain number of files quickly.”

The whole thing was a joke. Government orders banks to hire auditors to investigate robosigning, then banks induce said auditors to robosign the investigation! Because that’s exactly what that would mean, if there were financial incentives to finish masses of files quickly. It’s horrible, obviously, but on another level, it’s so ingeniously corrupt, one almost has to tip a cap to whoever thought of it.

Incidentally, what were Chase’s real numbers? I mean, if it hadn’t been a consulting firm hired by Chase for buttloads of cash to do the study, what might an auditor have concluded? Well, as reported by (among others) David Dayen at Naked Capitalism, we got a glimpse into one possible truth when the HUD Inspector General released a report that included an ad-hoc survey of Chase loans:

For Chase, we also reviewed 36 affidavits for foreclosures in judicial States to determine whether the amounts of borrowers’ indebtedness were supported. Chase was unable to provide documentation to support the amounts of borrowers’ indebtedness listed on the affidavits for all except four. When we reviewed the four affidavits, three were inaccurate. Specifically, the amounts of the borrowers’ late charges and accumulated interest did not reconcile with the information in Chase’s mortgage servicing system.

As Dayen jokingly pointed out, that means the gap in the stats was relatively small – Chase’s loans were either 97.2 percent fucked (as HUD found), or 0.6 percent (as Chase/OCC found). Somewhere in between there.

Anyway: In March, a Washington law firm called Williams and Connolly sued the OCC for failing to properly ensure that the auditors would be truly “independent.” The firm declined to say on whose behalf it was suing. Around the same time, members of congress like the House’s Elijah Cummings and new Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren started to become interested in these consulting arrangements, expressing concern that perhaps the settlement number had been reached in error.

Fast forward a few weeks. It’s April 11th, and Warren, along with Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, held hearings on this whole issue, bringing in officials from the OCC along with some of these consultants to get to the bottom of a number of issues, including, most importantly, how the settlement was calculated, and who decided who would receive how much compensation.

There were two major revelations from these hearings, in addition to the ongoing revelation that the suits who people the country’s financial regulators are sniveling, obfuscatory weasels who clearly view the banks they’re supposed to be regulating as a bunch of stand-up dudes while the taxpayers who are always demanding this or that (and the politicians who represent them) are humorless pains in the ass.

In terms of new revelations, the first was this one, a real shocker: that apparently, it was not even the obscenely overpaid, lapdog consultants who made the final decisions about which homeowners fell into which boxes in terms of settlement compensation. Incredibly, it appears that the banks themselves were allowed to do that sorting process!

This came out when Warren was interviewing private consultants from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Promontory, and Deloitte and Touche:

Senator Warren: I just want to take a look at the Independent Foreclosure Review Payment Agreement details. I think you’ve probably all seen this one page agreement that lists all of the things that the banks did wrong and then boxes for how many people fall into each category and how much money they’re going to be paid. Is that right? You’ve all seen this? [Panel indicates they have seen it.] And this was put out – who put this out? I think this is put out by the OCC and Federal Reserve. Is that right? As part of the settlement details.

In the settlement there is a one-page document that lists all the various misdeeds the banks engaged in during the foreclosure process, then goes on to list how many homeowners were victimized by each activity. Warren is showing this document to these consultants and she’s asking them, did you prepare these statistics? She goes on – listen to the answers from the auditors:

Senator Warren: So I just want to ask you about this. It has some pretty amazing categories here. The first category is about service members who were protected by Federal law whose homes were unlawfully foreclosed. It’s got people who were current on their payments whose homes were foreclosed. It’s got people who were performing all of the requirements under a modification who lost their homes to foreclosure. And it tells how many people fall into each category and how much money the people in that category will receive. And, it ultimately resolves what will happen to 3,949,896 families. So the question I have is having resolved this for nearly 4 million families, who put the people, the families, into each of these boxes. Is that what your firms did, Mr. Ryan? 

Owen Ryan, Partner, Deloitte Touche LLP: No, Senator, we did not. 

Senator Warren: So who put them in?

Ryan: I’m not sure how that schedule is prepared. I saw it for the first time yesterday. 

Senator Warren: Mr. Flanagan? 

James Flanagan, Leader, U.S. Financial Services Practice, Pricewaterhouse Coopers LLP: Same response. We were not involved in the accumulation of that information. 

Senator Warren: Mr. Alt? 

Konrad Alt, Managing Director, Promontory Financial Group: Senator, I’ve seen the schedule but I’m not familiar with the basis for its preparation. 

Having established that the consulting firms did not do this sorting, Warren presses toward the obvious conclusion:

Senator Warren: So that leaves us with the banks that broke the law, were then the banks that decided how many people lost their homes because of their lawbreaking. And, as a result, how many people would collect money in each of these categories. Is that right,Mr. Alt? 

Alt: Senator, I’m not familiar with the basis for the scheduling. 

Senator Warren: So far as you know, there’s no independent review of the banks’ analysis . . . You looked at 100,000 cases, and the banks have now put 4 million people into categories and resolved finally how much they will get from this review by the OCC and the Federal Reserve.   

So that’s bombshell Number One – it wasn’t the auditors who decided which homeowners fell into which categories, it appears to have been the banks themselves. Bombshell Number Two? The representatives of the OCC and the Fed – remember, federal regulators whose job it is supposedly to protect ordinary people – flatly refused to give any information about the real results of their surveys, i.e. their inquiries into what the real error rates were.

Even worse, when pressed on the question of whether they would deliver any evidence of wrongdoing they uncovered to private parties who might want to sue, they hedged.

In these exchanges, Warren questions Daniel Stipano, deputy chief counsel from the OCC, and Richard Ashton, Associate General Counsel for the Board of Governors at the Fed. There are two key sequences.

In the first, Warren asks both men if they will make public what they know about the extent of the illegality and errors – whether the real error rate was, as she put it, 1 percent or 90 percent. But the two officials respond in gibberish legalese (if you watch the video, Ashton in particular seems to take pleasure in dicking the Senate around with his verbose non-answers), repeatedly forcing Warren to pin him down to their actual concrete position, which turns out to be, “Fuck you.” For example:

Senator Warren.  So let me just make sure I understand this completely. I want to know on a bank-by-bank basis the number of families that were illegally foreclosed on. Will you give me that information?

Mr. Stipano. Eventually, we are going to issue a statement to the public where we provide additional information, but if we go through the processes that I described previously, we can share it to Congress in its oversight capacity.

Huh? I have no idea what that means, but it sounds positive – it did to Warren, too:

Senator Warren. So you are saying you will make that information publicly available?

Mr. Stipano. I did not say that. I said that we are planning on issuing a public statement that wraps up the IFR that provides additional information . . .

Ultimately, both the Fed and the OCC turned out to be united on the issue. They’ll release something, but it won’t be the real numbers. Frustrated, Warren asked them where the public is supposed to get the numbers, if not from them. Their answer is, well, they can maybe pull it out of their butts, if they get lucky – not our problem:

Mr. Stipano. Well, sometimes you get information through third parties, through outside sources. But in this case, that is not the case.

Senator Warren. So unless someone throws a rock through the window with this information tied to it, you will not release it, is that what you are saying?

Stipano here replies with more gibberish:

Mr. Stipano. To the extent that the information is confidential supervisory information derived from the exam process, it is subject to privilege.

From there, Warren asks a more specific question. What if someone wants to sue a bank for illegally tossing them out of their home? And what if you have evidence in such a case? Wouldn’t such evidence be, you know, helpful to those people? Stipano helpfully agrees, yes, it would be helpful:

Senator Warren. All right. So let me ask it from the other point of view. You now have evidence in your files of illegal activity, I take it, for some of these banks.   I get that from the evidence you have released about the charts, who is going to get paid what.         So if someone believes that they have been illegally foreclosed against, will they still have a right under this settlement to bring a lawsuit against the bank?

Mr. Stipano. Yes.

Senator Warren. All right. Now, if a family wants to bring a lawsuit–you are both lawyers–would it be helpful, if you are going against one of these big banks, would it be helpful for these families to have the information about their case that is in your files? Mr. Ashton?

Mr. Ashton. It would be helpful, obviously, to have information related to the injury. Yes, it would.

Which leads to the next question – having acknowledged that it would be helpful, will you help?

This seems like it should be an easy answer, but it isn’t:

Senator Warren. Okay. So do you plan to give the families this information? That is, those families that have been victims of illegal foreclosures, will you be giving them the information that is in your possession about how the banks illegally foreclosed against them? Mr. Ashton?

Mr. Ashton. I think that is a decision that we are still considering. We have not made a final decision yet.

Senator Warren. So you have made a decision to protect the banks but not a decision to tell the families who were illegally foreclosed against?

Mr. Ashton. We have not made a decision about what information we would provide to individuals, that is true. Yes.

Senator Warren. Mr. Stipano?

Mr. Stipano. We are in the same position.

Obviously these guys can’t come out and say, “We’re not giving anybody anything. Blow us.” That would cause too much of an uproar. So they just say they haven’t decided, and we all know what that means. Warren tries to frame the issue in the most embarrassing way possible, but the witnesses prove immune to such embarrassment:

Senator Warren.  So I want to just make sure I get this straight. Families get pennies on the dollar in this settlement for having been the victims of illegal activities or mistakes in the banks’ activities. You let the banks, and you now know individual cases where the banks violated the law and you are not going to tell the homeowners, or at least it is not clear yet whether or not you are going to do that?

Mr. Stipano. We have not made a decision on what we are going to tell the homeowners.

All of this just confirms what we already suspected about the foreclosure settlement. This whole enterprise was conceived by the government solely as a means of dealing with the explosive problem of containing the private liability of these “systemically important” companies. Not only are we not prosecuting these firms anymore, we’re also actively in the business of protecting them from litigation.

No other conclusion is possible from this testimony, which shows that our two primary regulators not only withheld information about bank illegality and errors prior to the settlement, but plan on continuing to do so going forward. There can be only one reason for concealing that information from the people affected by those “errors.”

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Ads to advertise free legal services for Staten Islanders fighting foreclosure

snnews charities.jpg“Providing a struggling family with legal counseling to navigate the foreclosure process can mean the difference between that family keeping their home or being displaced,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Stay tuned for a series of advertisements about the Homeowner Protection Program, a $60 million initiative to connect housing counselors and legal services providers with homeowners facing foreclosure statewide.

“Providing a struggling family with legal counseling to navigate the foreclosure process can mean the difference between that family keeping their home or being displaced,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who announced his office’s roll out of this new series of public service announcements on Thursday.

 ”Through these announcements, we’re empowering at-risk homeowners with the knowledge of how to connect with professionals who can help them assert their rights,” he added. “My office will continue to do everything in its power to put homeowners first, including making sure they have the resources available to say ‘No’ to foreclosure.”

The public service announcements (PSAs), entitled “Signs,” inform homeowners of the free foreclosure counseling and legal representation available through the Homeowner Protection Program to aid those who are at risk of foreclosure.

The PSAs also encourage homeowners to call the statewide foreclosure hotline at 855-HOME-456 and visit to connect with organizations and agencies that can provide foreclosure prevention services.

Using a portion of New York’s share of the National Mortgage Settlement, Schneiderman launched the Homeowner Protection Program, which funded 35 legal services organizations and 59 housing counseling agencies statewide to provide free foreclosure prevention services to homeowners. 

Program counselors provide at-risk homeowners with a range of services, including direct advocacy with lenders, financial counseling and assistance preparing the complex documentation that homeowners need in order to submit applications for loan modifications.

In just the first five months of reporting on the program, roughly 7,400 New York homeowners have been counseled, according Schneiderman’s office. Of the total number of families receiving assistance, 2,570 homeowners or close to 35 percent have pending or formally approved loan modifications after assistance from one of the program organizations.

Schneiderman also previously announced the launch of a statewide consumer hotline to assist those in need of mortgage counseling and Sandy support. By calling 1-855-HOME-456 consumers will be connected with a qualified program counselor or legal service provider within 24 hours.

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Detroit Masonic Temple makes deal to exit tax foreclosure

The world’s largest Masonic Temple entered an agreement Thursday with Wayne County officials to get out of tax foreclosure and Temple officials also said downtown titan Dan Gilbert is exploring the idea of investing in the historic neo-Gothic building.

The Masonic Temple Association and the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office agreed on a payment plan on the $152,000 tax bill that put the property in the hands of the county treasurer. Because part of the bill dates back to 2010, the building automatically was put in foreclosure earlier this year and slated for the September public auction of tax foreclosure properties. Masonic officials made a $10,000 payment Thursday morning and have vowed to pay the entire amount by June 3.

“Should they make the payments as scheduled there will be no foreclosure,” said David Szymanski, chief deputy treasurer for Wayne County. Technically, the 14-story building at 500 Temple is still in foreclosure but the county has agreed not to take any action.

Masonic President Roger Sobran said the unpaid tax bill is due to a brief partnership with a management company last year that left the Masonic $500,000 in debt. That partnership has ended and now there is a lawsuit between the two parties, Sobran said, though he didn’t elaborate.

“We are actually doing pretty good, overall,” Sobran said. “We have a lot of events coming up. Interest is high,” Sobran said.

That interest apparently includes Quicken Loan’s founder Dan Gilbert, whose Rock Ventures entity is one of the largest private landowners of downtown buildings. They have grand designs to renovate the area. Sobran said Masonic Temple officials and representatives from Rock Ventures have had discussions about investing in the facility.

“We are open to the idea and they seemed interested,” Sobran said. “But I don’t know if will result into anything.”

Sobran said there are other potential investors in the temple as well.

The building takes up the 500 block of Temple Street just north of downtown. It has 1,037 rooms and multiple theater and entertainment venues. It was placed on the state’s Historic Registry in 1964 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Generations of Metro Detroiters have seen stage productions, concerts, graduations and other events at the facility. Construction began in 1920 and the temple was dedicated in 1926. The temple’s Masonic Theatre can seat 4,404 people, and has been a stop for touring Broadway shows, concerts and Detroit visits of the New York City Opera. With its two ballrooms, office space, cafeteria, dining rooms, barber shop and 16 bowling lanes, the temple is rented out for events from high school graduations to weddings and corporate events.

Recent tenants have included the Detroit Derby Girls Roller Team.

The temple schedule includes an upcoming concert and comedy show, as well as a sold-out May 18 concert by Sixto Rodriguez, the Detroit guitarist and singer who toiled in obscurity until the recent Oscar-winning documentary of his career, “Searching for Sugar Man.”

In April 2010, the Masonic Temple and the Ilitch-owned Olympia Entertainment ended a two-year deal in which Olympia Entertainment managed the venue.

At the time, Olympia officials said the firm had invested millions in the facility and paid off and restructured the debt of the building’s owners.

Last year, there was an effort through a mix of public and private funds to raise $38 million for more renovations to the building and the surrounding Cass Park area. The plan was aided by the Magnet Fund, a super committee of state and city economic officials. It includes such organizations as the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Invest Detroit, which identifies big projects around the state that need support through tax breaks.

Sobran said that “effort fell by the wayside.”

(313) 222-2760

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN

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Charlotte foreclosure rate falls in February

Foreclosure rates in the Charlotte area fell in February from the same month last year, according to data released Friday by CoreLogic.

In the area comprising Charlotte, Gastonia and Rock Hill, the rate of foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans was 2.73 percent, down from 3.5 percent a year ago, the Irvine, Calif.-based company said.

The Charlotte-area rate for February was also below the national rate of 2.85 percent.

Fewer mortgages were delinquent in the Charlotte area in February from a year ago, CoreLogic said. In February, 6.09 percent of loans were 90 days or more delinquent, a decline from 7.08 percent in February 2012.

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McNerney introduces bill to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton) introduced the Housing Opportunity and Mortgage Equity (HOME) Act of 2013 to help underwater homeowners avoid foreclosure.  The HOME Act will help lower homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments, providing them with a path to stay in their homes.

Continuing to strengthen the housing sector is a vital part of economic security.  We need to help people stay in their homes and build financial security.  With the housing crisis still affecting our region, it is vital that we continue to provide relief, thus benefitting our entire community,” said Congressman McNerney.

The HOME Act will provide millions of Americans with lower monthly mortgage payments, providing much-needed financial relief.  It will allow homeowners with mortgages secured by the Government Sponsored Enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to refinance at the current low interest rates.  This option was originally established by the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP); however, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), as of December of 2012, only 2.1 million loans had been refinanced out of the original goal of 5 million.

The HOME Act will create a one-year refinancing program and grant the FHFA the option to extend the program beyond that deadline.  Currently, there are nearly 30 million mortgages guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

We need to continue to take a multi-faceted, commonsense approach to deal with the ongoing housing crisis.  We will never get our economy back to a competitive, robust state without addressing this challenge.  This is too critical an issue to go unaddressed,” said Congressman McNerney.

The HOME Act is supported by the California Association of Realtors and ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

Reps. Doris Matsui, Mike Honda and Jim Costa are original cosponsors of the bill.

We applaud Representative McNerney for introducing the HOME Act to make it easier for responsible homeowners to refinance their mortgages at today’s low interest rates and avoid foreclosure.  We support this important piece of legislation and hope it moves swiftly through Congress.” – Don Faught, President, California Association of Realtors

“Congressman McNerney’s bill is an important step toward improving the stability of the housing market and providing struggling homeowners with affordable alternatives for preserving home ownership. Sustainable home ownership has a positive effect on a local and national level, which helps improve the overall health of our economy.” – Martha Lucey, Senior Vice President and Chief Education Officer, ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions

The HOME Act will open the door for more families to receive needed assistance to save their homes. Thank you, Congressman McNerney, for being a champion of homeowners.” – Cynthia Summers, Housing Chair, California State Conference, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

McNerney represents most of Antioch in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Owners Of Detroit’s Masonic Temple Take Steps To Avoid Foreclosure

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Detroit’s historic Masonic Temple and Wayne County have reached an agreement to stop foreclosure proceedings, its president said Thursday.

Roger Sobran said the Temple paid $10,000 toward a tax bill Thursday and is expected to pay another $36,000 by early June.

More than $150,000 in unpaid taxes from 2010 and 2012 left the 14-story building in the hands of the Wayne County treasurer’s office.

But Sobran and chief deputy county treasurer David Szymanski said a payment plan had been worked out.

“Whether it’s the Masonic or somebody’s home, we’re rally happy to see taxpayers come in, make their tax payment,” Symanski told WWJ’s Chrystal Knight. “It helps fund essential government services and it helps them avoid foreclosure. It stabilizes our neighborhoods.”

The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, takes up an entire block and has more than 1,000 rooms. It houses the Masonic Theater, a concert site that for decades hosted some of the biggest acts in music, including The Who and the Rolling Stones.

“We’re rebounding. Business is good this year. We have a lot of events,” said Sobran, who added the Temple has earned $1.2 million in gross revenue so far this calendar year.

A default had been triggered by the unpaid taxes. Under state law, owners have time to catch up, but if they don’t, a court may order a foreclosure.

Located north of downtown, the Masonic Temple is home to several masonic organizations. Construction on the building began in 1920, and the temple was dedicated in 1926. It has ballrooms, dining rooms, a barber shop and even bowling lanes inside.

“We’ve been here for 90 years, and we’re going to be here,” Sobran said.

Symanski said 40,000 properties in that same 500-block of Temple are facing foreclosure, but he’s made payment arrangements with 15,000 of them.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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