NY regulator proposes foreclosure law change

ALBANY – New York’s top bank regulator on Tuesday proposed amending state law to shorten the foreclosure process for homes with delinquent mortgages.

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky, addressing mortgage bankers, said New York’s process averages 900 days from the date of filing to the sale of the property. That’s nearly a year longer than the national average, according to the department.

“The chronic nature of New York’s foreclosure problem is not a result of a new wave of defaulting homeowners,” Lawsky said. “Rather, the long tail of the crisis is due, in significant part, to problems in the way our state’s broken judicial foreclosure process is currently applied.”

In the foreclosure crisis from the 2008 recession and burst housing bubble, New York law was amended to require a settlement conference between the lender and homeowner to “negotiate in good faith.” Lawsky said those conferences are frequently plagued by delays that worsen homeowner prospects of keeping their residences as interest and penalties mount. It also hurts lenders and investors whose investments lose value, he said.

Read more: http://nydailyrecord.com/blog/2015/05/19/ny-regulator-proposes-foreclosure-law-change/#ixzz3an20YnTQ

Programs to help low-income homeowners

Rochester Business Journal
April 23, 2015

The Rochester Area Community Foundation and a Syracuse non-profit plan to help launch new programs to help low-income Rochester-area and central New York homeowners make energy saving repairs and improvements, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday.

Community Foundation and Home Headquarters Inc. are to share $2 million. The money comes from New York’s share of a settlement among American Electric Power Co. Inc., eight states and the Environmental Protection Agency.

American Electric Power is one of the largest U.S. investor-owned utilities. In a deal finalized in 2007, it agreed to pay $4.6 million in fines, penalties and remediation costs to settle air-pollution complaints against 16 of its coal-fired power plants. New York’s share of the settlement was $9.5 million.

The Rochester and Syracuse-area sustainable homes programs will be modeled on a Buffalo-area program his office helped start in 2010, Schneiderman said.

Created by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative raised additional money to bolster the startup funds provided by the attorney general’s office. The Buffalo initiative has so far helped more than 370 Western New York home owners.

“With Rochester’s aging housing stock, many families are challenged to keep their homes in good repair,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. “I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for looking out for Rochester’s homeowners, and I’m confident that the Rochester Area Community Foundation will be able to put these funds to good use.”

(c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.

Beware of online rental scams

Mary Chao, Staff writer

While looking through Craigslist, Rochester homeowner Ryan Yacano noticed something suspicious. His 1,434-square-foot Colonial-style home that is currently on the market for $89,900 was being featured for rent on the online classified site.

“They were asking for $800 a month, utilities included,” Yacano said of the scam artists on Craigslist. “I don’t know how people think that’s possible because that’s less than my monthly mortgage.”

Real estate offers are ever present online. But they increase in spring because the number of listings climb during the busy spring market, area real estate experts say, cautioning that if a rental deal looks too good to be true, it may be a scam.

Realtor Susan Glenz of Keller Williams of Greater Rochester is the listing agent for Yacano’s home at 120 Weston Road off Lake Avenue. She has seen two of her listings in the past few weeks promoted illegally as rentals online in an attempt to take someone’s deposit check.

In the case of Yacano’s home, someone took photos Glenz used in an online listing and created a Craigslist rental ad, posing as the owner. They didn’t use the real owner’s name, but they used the name of a relative of his. When potential renters inquired about the property via the ad, they received a long emotional email about why the owner needed to rent it and why the owner was charging such a great low rate, she said. The scammer also asked for a security deposit up front.

Yacano, who works in information technology, decided to research the scam and found that the IP address originated from Washington state but the phone number was traced to nearby Albion in Orleans County. Since the scam artist is out of state, he decided not to ask local law enforcement for assistance.

Read the Rest….

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $2 Million Sustainable Homes Program Targeting Low Income Families In Rochester And Syracuse

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is teaming with the Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters, Inc. in Syracuse to launch a $2 million sustainable homes program. The program will help low-income families lower their energy bills and eliminate serious home health and safety hazards in older homes. The program is funded with money from a $9.5 million court-ordered settlement with American Electric Power (AEP), the largest U.S. power company, over violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

“Aging homes, modest incomes, and scarce community resources force too many low-income families to live in houses that are unsafe, unhealthy, and energy inefficient,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “These investments will help alleviate these problems by giving families the resources they need to make needed improvements that will help keep them safe while cutting energy consumption. These programs will also serve to strengthen our neighborhoods and revitalize our communities.”

The $2 Million investment will create sustainable homes programs in both Rochester and Syracuse that are modelled on the highly-successful Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (BGHHI). The Buffalo initiative is implemented by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo with partial funding from the Attorney General’s office. That initiative has helped more than 379 of Buffalo’s neediest families to lower their energy bills and eliminate serious home health and safety hazards in older homes.

As with the Buffalo program, the monies provided by the Attorney General’s office from the American Electric Power settlement will be used by Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters, and their implementing partners, to directly fund energy efficiency and weatherization improvements in targeted owner-occupied housing, while serving as a catalyst to attract parallel funding for health and safety improvements such as lead poisoning intervention, asthma trigger reduction (reducing mold, dust and vermin infestation), and correction of home accident hazards.

Much of the housing stock in Rochester and Syracuse is aged. For example, in Syracuse, more than 50% of the housing units were built before 1939 and, in some of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods, this rate rises to almost 90%. In Rochester, more than 60% of the housing stock was built prior to 1940.

Both cities have also faced chronic economic challenges, leading to low incomes and poverty. In Rochester, the median household income is 42% lower than the national average. In Syracuse, 30% of the population — and 60% of children — live below the national poverty level. The combination of aged housing stock and economic distress results in a deterioration of housing and unaddressed home energy efficiency, health and safety needs within both cities low-income communities.

“Improving energy efficiency will lead to more affordable energy bills, more money in the pocket of consumers, and a better environment for the City of Syracuse,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “The City of Syracuse enjoys the benefits of a good partnership with Home Headquarters. With this funding, they will be able to further their critical mission of giving Syracuse the best housing stock available for its residents. This is just another example of how Attorney General Schneiderman has put a major emphasis on urban housing needs during his time in office. As Mayor, I appreciate his support for these important quality of life issues.”

“A person’s ability to sustain a good job, get a quality education and contribute to a vibrant neighborhood all begins with having a safe place to call home,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. “With Rochester’s aging housing stock, many families are challenged to keep their homes in good repair, so the sustainable homes program will go a long way toward helping our families and revitalizing our streets and our neighborhoods. I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for looking out for Rochester’s homeowners, and I’m confident that the Rochester Area Community Foundation will be able to put these funds to good use.”

“On behalf of Rochester Area Community Foundation’s board and donors, I want to thank New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his team for their leadership and financial support on behalf of Rochester homeowners,” said Jennifer Leonard, President and CEO, Rochester Area Community Foundation. “Healthier, safer, greener homes help create a more equitable community — one of the Community Foundation’s top grantmaking goals. We are proud to be a partner in this collaborative effort.”

“Medical and educational research has demonstrated the harm that housing contaminants, such as mold or lead, can have on the health of families, especially children,” said Trilby de Jung, CEO, Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, a project partner of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. “This funding from Attorney General Schneiderman will provide critical help to homeowners in our most challenged neighborhoods. The initiative will bring together some of Rochester’s most successful players in community development, housing, environmental health, job training and weatherization to create a foundation for neighborhood health and revitalization.”

“We are thrilled to be selected by Attorney General Schneiderman as the local Project Administrator for this effort, as it lends itself to Home HeadQuarters’ mission to help homeowners access programs and services to make their homes safe,” said Kerry Quaglia, Executive Director, HomeHeadquarters, Inc. “In addition, we are lucky to have supportive partners from the community, including nonprofit agencies, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, Central New York Community Foundation and Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, who have been working on this issue locally to ensure the success of the program. Together, we will collectively improve the lives of homeowners and work towards positive systems change.”

“By offering financial and facilitation support, the Central New York Community Foundation is pleased to join the multiple community partners collaborating with Attorney General Schneiderman and Home HeadQuarters to help in this initiative,” said John Eberle, Vice President, Grants & Community Initiatives, Central New York Community Foundation, a project partner of Home Headquarters. “This collaborative initiative will help improve the quality of life for hundreds of Syracuse homeowners in a safe, health, and energy efficient manner – and the system-wide improvements to services deployed will live on for years to come.”

“We are sincerely grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for his strong support of New York families, and dedication to creating healthy, safe, and energy efficient homes,” said Ruth Ann Norton, president and CEO of the national Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). “This critical investment will improve health, social, and educational outcomes for children, seniors and families in these two communities. We look forward to supporting the efforts of the Rochester Area Community Foundation and Home HeadQuarters.”

About Rochester Area Community Foundation

The Rochester Area Community Foundation is a Rochester-based independent not-for-profit regional community foundation that works to improve quality of life by evaluating and addressing community issues, promoting responsible philanthropy, and connecting donors to the community’s critical needs in an eight‐county service area, centered in Monroe County and the City of Rochester, that also includes Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties.

About Home HeadQuarters, Inc.

Home HeadQuarters, Inc. is a Syracuse-based independent not-for-profit housing and community development organization. Home HeadQuarters is one of the largest housing and neighborhood revitalization organizations in Central New York as well as one of the largest regional providers of affordable home improvement loans and grants for homeowners in Central and Upstate New York.

About The Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative

The Buffalo Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, which the Attorney General’s office helped create in 2010, is administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The key innovation of the Buffalo program, which will be replicated in Rochester and Syracuse , is its use of “resource-braiding” to attract funding from a range of governmental and philanthropic sources. With additional resources, money is coordinated and focused on “whole-home” remedies. This approach has allowed the program to address the full range of energy efficiency and weatherization improvements, as well as health, and safety needs of homeowners through single, comprehensive interventions.

The Buffalo program has an established an impressive track record of accomplishments. To date, the initiative has:

  • Assisted 379 of Buffalo’s neediest families – including almost 200 children – with crucial home health, safety and weatherization interventions;
  • Grown the $2.6 million of initial investments in the initiative into more than $10.3 million in program funds;
  • Engaged more than 50 public and private-sector partners in implementing the initiative;
  • Achieved home rehabilitations at an extremely cost-effective average investment of just over $10,500 per home — with the Attorney General office’s funding averaging roughly 1/3 of the total per-home allocation;
  • Trained more than 270 unemployed or underemployed Buffalo residents (most of whom are re-entering the work force following criminal justice histories) for careers related to home improvement. More than 175 of those receiving training through the BGHHI, have been placed in jobs; and
  • Received numerous awards and recognitions, including Buffalo’s designation as the 15th national Green and Health Homes Initiative site by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With additional financial support of $193,000 from Attorney General Schneiderman provided in 2013, the Buffalo program has worked to reduce communication and cultural barriers that prevent Nepali and Burmese refugees – groups with the highest rates of homeownership among Buffalo’s resettled political refugees community – from fully accessing the initiative. To date, the “New Americans Project” has reached over 1,000 members of Nepali and Burmese refugee community.

This matter is being handled for Attorney General Schneiderman by Assistant Attorney General Jane Cameron and Policy Advisor Peter C. Washburn of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau, with support from Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg, and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel.


Lawsuit alleges racial bias by apartment rental company

A southeast Rochester landlord discriminated against a woman by refusing to rent her an apartment because she was African-American, state human-rights lawyers allege in a lawsuit.

The legal action, filed in state Supreme Court in Rochester, accuses Hanna Properties LLC and a company employee of engaging in “unlawful discriminatory conduct” by discouraging a prospective tenant, Janetta Cleveland, when she called about an apartment in October 2012.

The landlord’s actions “contribute to unlawful discrimination in housing in the state of New York,” the lawsuit claims.

While the merits of this lawsuit have yet to be tested in court, experts say racial discrimination in rental and owner-occupied housing persists in the Rochester area decades after federal and state laws outlawed such practices.

“It’s still out there,” a fair-housing attorney told the Democrat and Chronicle in 2013 for a story on housing discrimination that was part of the newspaper’s Unite Rochester project.

read more at the Democrat & Chronicle…

Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative

Website lanches to educate the community on the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.

United Way is involved with Governor Cuomo’s Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. Local efforts are being centralized through a steering committee led by Assembly Majority Leader Morelle, the City of Rochester and Monroe County, and convened by United Way. We are working together to eliminate poverty by ensuring that every child lives in a stable family environment where the promise of economic mobility is a reality.

Read more at the website…

Volunteers sought to learn about, fight poverty

Do you want to be part of what state and local leaders are billing as an unprecedented effort to fight poverty in Rochester?

Now is your chance.

Leaders of the Rochester-Monroe County Anti-Poverty Initiative are forming seven work groups to learn all they can about different aspects of local poverty and recommend strategies for attacking each area of the problem. Volunteers are needed to serve on the work groups.

Learn more about the initiative and find out how to get involved at United Way of Greater Rochester’s website, uwrochester.org.

This news came at the end of a 31/2-hour listening session Thursday at the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center, where speakers described the complexity and depth of Rochester poverty from different angles — education, jobs, housing, health and public safety.

read more…

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Settlement With Six Syracuse Area Apartment Complexes Over Failing To Return Security Deposits To Tenants

SYRACUSE – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement agreement with six Syracuse-area apartment complexes that repeatedly failed to return tenants’ security deposits at lease-end and, when applicable, to pay interest to tenants on their initial deposits. The settlement will return deposits to dozens of former tenants and resolve complaints against Abraham Mendlowitz, President of AIM Properties Corp. and AIM Properties Management Corp. Under the agreement, $13,983.50 in restitution has been refunded to former tenants by the apartment complexes and $15,000 has been paid in investigative costs to the state. The complaints involved apartment buildings formerly under Mendlowitz’ management in Syracuse and Liverpool.

“Lease agreements require obligations of both tenants and landlords alike,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Just as tenants must pay their rent on time, landlords must meet their duties, including returning security deposits and abiding by the law. I am committed to standing up for tenants when they are treated unfairly.”

Former tenants of Breckenridge Apartments, Ridge Wood Apartment Complex, and Kingswood Garden Apartments in Liverpool; and Greenway Place Apartments, Briarcliff Estates, and Sunnycrest Manor Apartments in Syracuse complained to the Attorney General’s Office about their landlord’s failure to return security deposits. State law provides that tenants are entitled to their deposit, along with interest, when an apartment building contains six or more units.

In addition to complaints about security deposits, this summer the Attorney General’s Office received complaints from current tenants who reported that National Grid had posted signs and mailed warning notices of a potential utility shut-off because management had failed to pay the utility bills. Based on the abundance of complaints from consumers, the Attorney General’s Office commenced an investigation of Abraham Mendlowitz, President of AIM Properties Corp. and AIM Properties Management Corp.

Today’s settlement agreement requires that Mendlowitz and his property management companies, as well as each of the following apartment complexes, return security deposits to all tenants who are entitled to a refund and to fully comply in all respects with Article 7 of the General Obligations Law:

  • Briarcliff Estates: 300 Audubon Parkway, Syracuse, NY;
  • Sunnycrest Manor Apartments: 725 Hixson Avenue, Syracuse, NY;
  • Breckenridge Apartments: 4320 Arlington Circle, Liverpool, NY;
  • Ridge Wood Apartment Complex: 7426 Henry Clay Boulevard, Liverpool, NY;
  • Kingswood Garden Apartments: 1150 Vine Street, Liverpool, NY; and
  • Greenway Place Apartments: 200-04 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse, NY.

The properties must also maintain separate lease security trust accounts for the tenants of these buildings and any others it presently owns or subsequently acquires, with the accounts maintained in a banking organization within New York State. In addition, lease security accounts must be established for current tenants and for each new tenant, upon receiving a security deposit from that tenant.

The respondents named in the Assurance of Discontinuance must also issue security deposit refund checks for former tenants within 30 days. The checks will include an additional amount of $5.00 to cover interest payments which could not be accurately calculated due to the apartments’ failure to maintain proper escrow accounts. Current tenants should receive notification from building management regarding their security deposit, including amount, escrow bank account and interest accrued. The respondent also paid costs for the investigation in the amount of $15,000.

Any former tenant who failed to receive a refund of a rent security deposit that was not due to a failure to pay rent or damage to the apartment should contact the Attorney General’s Syracuse Regional Office at 315-448-4848.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith C. Malkin of the Syracuse Regional Office with the investigation performed by Senior Law Department Investigator Andrea Buttenschon. The Syracuse Regional Office is led by Assistant Attorney General In-Charge Ed Thompson. The Syracuse Regional Office is part of the Division of Regional Offices led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Marty Mack.

Homeless Statistics Require a Deeper Look

Homelessness in Rochester has become a very visible issue, for a very specific segment of the homeless population. But what about the homeless population that isn’t as visible? Rochester has recently topped yet another list with regards to our disturbingly high poverty rates. Specifically cited in this report is the tragedy that “Rochester is now the only city of its size where slightly more than half of children live in poverty.” For a city located in one of the most generous states in the country, this reality is shocking, and it begs us to begin looking at alternative ways to address the issue. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is a glaring oversight in a way we document homeless statistics.

Coming up at the end of this month, Monroe County will conduct its federally mandated Point in Time (PIT) count, and you will likely hear about the results. This is a tool HUD uses to track the number of homeless individuals based on a one-day count every year. Shelter providers, street outreach workers, and other agencies that provide homeless services will count how many people, sheltered and unsheltered, are homeless in Monroe County on January 28th. Of course, multiple factors contribute to the accuracy of this count, but there is one missing piece that should be a cause for concern for all of us: The Rochester City School District Homeless Education Program’s 1500+ children. That number is based on right now and is expected to climb. Last year, the count reached 2200+ by the end of the school year.  The argument behind this? That children who are “doubled up” do not, for the sake of the PIT count, qualify as homeless. The problem with that argument? Under the McKinney-Vento Act, they most certainly qualify as homeless and the physical, social, emotional, and academic impacts of homelessness are the same on these children as they are on children living in shelters. In fact, many families in this environment are feeling the impacts even more. Under McKinney-Vento, homelessness is defined as an individual, family, or child who “lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.”

read more…

Downtown church will open its doors to homeless

A downtown church will temporarily open its doors to homeless people who have been staying in a tent encampment downtown.

Starting Tuesday night, up to 15 people will be able to stay in the gymnasium at Downtown United Presbyterian Church on North Fitzhugh Street, said Gail Mott, a member of the church’s justice team. People can stay overnight, from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m., for two weeks.

The church will offer a daily hot meal, breakfast and sandwiches to people before they head out for the day. read more…