$20 Million in New York State Budget Granted to Attorney General’s Office for Housing and Legal Services Assistance
ALBANY, N.Y., April 1, 2019 -- Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature and the Attorney General’s Office, $20 million has been allocated in the New York State budget for vital housing counseling and legal services programs to help middle- and working-class homeowners and to save hundreds of nonprofit jobs. The funds will support a network of 89 housing counseling and legal service providers across the state to continue to help New Yorkers — primarily families, seniors, and people of color — navigate complex housing challenges, including foreclosure prevention, the threat of displacement, and mortgage fraud.
“On behalf of the Communities First network, we are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, the Attorney General, and our advocates in the Senate and Assembly for their steadfast commitment to New York homeowners. This funding will provide frontline support to homeowners struggling to keep their homes, and will help stabilize neighborhoods across the state. Today, with our ongoing partnership with the Attorney General’s office, we can ensure that New Yorkers have access to free resources to help them stay in their homes and in the communities they love,” said Christie Peale, CEO/Executive Director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods.
“We are so grateful to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins along with Attorney General Leticia James for figuring out how to provide full funding for critical services to homeowners and communities that are continuing to deal with foreclosures, during this difficult budget year,” said Kirsten Keefe, Senior Staff Attorney at the Empire Justice Center. “We were fearful of losing the decade-old network of 89 housing counseling and legal services programs. It is a huge relief to know that homeowners, as well as the many court, municipal, and other housing programs will be able to continue to depend on these services.”
“Thank you to Governor Cuomo, the NYS Assembly and Senate, the Attorney General, and countless advocates who championed and prioritized this funding that will allow Communities First advocates to continue protecting and supporting struggling New York homeowners,” said Jacob Inwald, Director of Foreclosure Prevention at Legal Services NYC. “Thanks to their efforts, homeowners facing foreclosure, mortgage frauds, and scams will continue to have access to top-notch legal services and counseling that will help them and their families stay in their homes. This investment will also help stabilize communities in New York State, preserve affordable housing and reduce homelessness, saving the state money in the long run.”
“We applaud the State legislature for including funding for the Communities First Program. The funding will allow the statewide network of housing counselors and legal services organizations to address the problem of mortgage foreclosures and zombie properties. Buffalo and communities throughout Western New York are working hard to address the growing problem of vacant and abandoned properties. By funding the Communities First program, the Legislature has given these communities an important resource that will help in the fight to improve our neighborhoods and keep residents in their homes,” said Joseph Kelemen, Executive Director of Western New York Law Center.
“I am thankful for the Governor and Legislature for stepping in to save our network of nonprofits before we lost our bulwark against the continuing Long Island foreclosure crisis. Though much of the country has been able to recover from the mortgage disaster, Nassau and Suffolk counties have the highest foreclosure rates in the state and are seeing an increase in mortgage defaults that includes an increasing number of seniors getting into trouble with their reverse mortgages. On top of that, Long Island will suffer new waves of foreclosures due to the Trump administration’s capping the SALT deduction and ending Temporary Protective Status,” said Ian S. Wilder, Esq., Executive Director, Long Island Housing Services, Inc.
“RHAC is thrilled that the Communities First funding has been included in the NYS budget! We are thankful for the strong support of New York homeowners by Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and Senate,” said Stephanie Rojas, Housing Director for Rockland Housing Action Coalition, Inc. “This important funding will allow our agency, and many others across the state, to continue to advocate and provide critical counseling services to homeowners — which has broad implications beyond preserving homeownership. Our dedicated staff of counselors are re-energized by the support of our mission.”
With $20 million in funding, New Yorkers will continue to have access to free, trained, and trusted nonprofit services to help navigate the complex judicial foreclosure and loss mitigation process, which can be some of the most difficult times in homeowners’ lives. This investment will also build on the infrastructure that has been put into place since the financial crisis and that will be needed as the economy slows. According to a new report from Comptroller Di Napoli, many counties throughout the state continue to struggle with foreclosure -- especially Suffolk, Clinton, Rockland, and Putnam -- and continued funding will ensure homeowners have support and guidance, creating strong, thriving communities statewide.
Most recently, the network of nonprofits was financed from bank settlements administered by the Attorney General’s Office, that were scheduled to run out on March 31 and would have resulted in a rise in foreclosures, the closure of nonprofits, and layoffs.