Henrietta woman fights foreclosure to keep her house and wins – Democrat & Chronicle

Henrietta woman fights foreclosure to keep her house and wins

by: Erica Bryant

Some think that banks don’t have to help homeowners who have fallen on hard times.  “A bank isn’t a social agency,” one reader said in an email after last week’s column about a woman who is fighting foreclosure. “If the customer can’t pay, they take the house.”

Actually, the law requires banks to make a number of specific efforts to help homeowners keep their property. More people need to know their rights, and that there are free resources to help protect them.

Just ask Jean S. Blattner, a Henrietta woman who recently received a mortgage modification that will allow her to keep her home. It took four years, more than a dozen court appearances, many tears and two local non-profit organizations to accomplish this.

Blattner bought a house on Fawn Ridge Road for $125,000 in 2005. She says she never missed a payment until she was laid off from her job as a purchasing agent in 2013. Money was tight and she didn’t pay her mortgage in March and April of 2013.  Shortly after, she got a letter from U.S. Bank, which had purchased her mortgage, saying that she was in danger of losing her home.

 At first, she tried to navigate on her own, which meant sitting on the phone for hours and being transferred again and again to different bank employees who couldn’t help her. U.S. Bank sent her different letters demanding different amounts of money.  When she sent checks towards her debt, U.S. Bank returned them. “They wouldn’t take a nickel,” she said.  After seven months of getting nowhere, she was in panic.

At the unemployment insurance office, Blattner had seen a flier offering free housing counseling services through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She called the Housing Council, which hosts HUD counseling services, and was connected with foreclosure prevention counselor Christopher Schello. He eventually connected her to Empire Justice Center, where attorney Kevin Purcell took her case.

The foreclosure process can be maddening, even to attorneys who deal with it for a living, Purcell said. But free counseling and legal services can help distressed homeowners avoid certain pitfalls that can hurt a person’s chances of getting a loan modification, extension or lower interest rate. For example, if a mortgage holder asks for your bank statement, you have to send all pages, even if the last page printed is blank. If you don’t mail that blank page, the bank will say that it did not receive the document. It will probably not tell you that you need to send the blank page, so it is likely that you will repeat the mistake.

Average people don’t often have hours in the middle of the day to spend on the phone trying to get through to bank employees who can help them.  Or to deal with lost documents, confusing, incorrect and conflicting requests and other problems.

“People ask all the time ‘are the banks evil?’” said Purcell. “I tend to blame it more on incompetence.” He said that banks have not set up processes that can handle the volume of homeowners who are facing foreclosure. The bank employees who are in charge of delinquent mortgages are often overwhelmed and undertrained.

The problem has been widespread. In 2013, U.S. Bank was among the 10 banks that agreed to pay $8.5 billion dollars in a federal lawsuit because they mishandled foreclosure paperwork and skipped mandated steps in the foreclosure process. The money was probably small comfort to the thousands of people who were unjustly forced to leave their homes, a profoundly traumatic experience.

 Blattner feared this would happen to her and said she often left her court appearances in tears. She credits Schello and Purcell with encouraging her not to give up as the process dragged on, the paperwork piled up and the bank wouldn’t take payments. “I had $20,000 in the bank and they wouldn’t take it,” she said. “I was dumbfounded.”

Meanwhile, bank representatives kept calling to encourage her to accept a short sale of her home. Blattner refused because she didn’t want to lose all she had worked for. “I was proud of the fact that I was a working woman and I put myself through school and I bought myself a home,” she said.

U.S. Bank did not respond to questions about Blattner’s experience before the deadline for this column. But her story has a happy ending. She got a job with Children Awaiting Parents. After 4 years and countless hours of effort, she has reached an agreement with U.S. Bank to modify her loan. Her missed payments will be added to the back end of her mortgage. She has planted new hostas and flowers at the property and sent thank you notes to Schello and Purcell.  She encourages any homeowner who is falling behind on mortgage payments or facing foreclosure to seek help quickly. “You have got to stand your ground,” she said. “I saved my home because of non-profits that supported me.”

Rochester has four HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agencies that offer free foreclosure prevention assistance. For more information call The Housing Council at Pathstone at (585) 546-3700, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester at (585) 546-3440, Marketview Heights Association at (585) 423-1540 or Urban League of Rochester at (585) 325-6530.

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City and Irondequoit get grants to combat zombie properties – rbj.net

City and Irondequoit get grants to combat zombie properties

by: Velvet Spicer

The City of Rochester and the Town of Irondequoit are two of 18 cities and towns statewide that will receive grants to address and transform zombie properties.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday announced the winners of the first phase of the Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement grant awards. The investment will total more than $10 million over the next two years.

The program aims to innovatively address and transform blighted, vacant or poorly maintained problem properties through the use of housing and community data from various state agencies. Cities RISE was launched in April as a strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis.

The funds will come from settlements made with large financial institutions that contributed to the collapse of the housing market, officials said.

“Too many New Yorkers are still struggling in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. That’s why my office is investing the dollars we secured from the banks, to provide the tools necessary to rebuild and strengthen our neighborhoods,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Cities RISE presents a 21st century approach to overcoming this crisis and revitalizing New York’s communities.”

The 18 communities were chosen by national community development nonprofits Enterprise Community Partners and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. Each community will receive a two-year subscription to a data platform designed to integrate and analyze data such as code enforcement records, tax liens and fire and police data.

In addition, grantees will receive capacity building support from Spruce Technology and the program will be guided by a senior advisory team of issue area experts who specialize in community revitalization and engagement.

“The Building Blocks software will be a valuable tool in our ongoing efforts to make government more transparent,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. “Using this software, individuals will be able to get detailed information about properties, particularly vacant properties, in the city. I am thankful to the attorney general for his advocacy on behalf of our citizens, which helps us in our efforts to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”

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$10M in neighborhood grants at risk – Democrat & Chronicle

$10M in neighborhood grants at risk

by: Meaghan M. McDermott

A federal funding stream that has poured more than $100 million into the Rochester-area economy over the past decade is in jeopardy as the Trump administration seeks to end a government grant program that injects funds into community and economic development projects.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, known in government parlance as the CDBG program, is a potential budget-cut target this year under a blueprint released last month by President Donald J. Trump. Eliminating the program would result in a national annual savings of $3 billion that could be spent on something else. The budget blueprint calls for boosting military spending by more than $54 billion, a 10 percent increase, that would be funded with equivalent cuts in other areas.

The Trump administration says it believes the tax cut plan it announced this past week will pay for itself through economic growth. So the likelihood is that the $3 billion savings from ending CDBGs would go toward the boost in military spending.

If CDBGs ends

The blueprint Trump put forward could change several times before a budget is finalized, and there are other potential program cuts that could impact the Rochester region. But cutting the block grants would be felt very close to home.

What would potentially be lost would be quality of life programs that the $3 billion supports now, including state and local government endeavors as varied as job training, parking lots, museums, housing repairs and infrastructure projects. Local and state governments, already strapped for cash, would have to make up the difference, if it were to be made up at all.

CDBGs also support Meals on Wheels, which got the lion’s share of attention last month after news broke of a possible federal initiative to eliminate the 42-year-old CDBG program. But, helping to provide meals to elderly shut-ins is just a tiny sliver of the federal dollars given to localities to improve overall quality of life for residents. An exclusive Democrat and Chronicle analysis of 2016 CDBG projects in Monroe County and the three communities here (Greece, Irondequoit and Rochester) that get dedicated funds from the program shows:

►While the bulk of the funds, more than $8 million in the fiscal year 2016, went to the city of Rochester, benefits also accrued to projects in more than a dozen suburban communities that do not get direct federal grants.

 ►Of more than $1.8 million provided to Monroe County, about a third was granted to towns and villages for fixes or improvements to their roadways, sewer systems, parks and public facilities.

►Nearly $1.4 million was provided to low- and moderate-income homeowners all across the county via direct grants and low-cost loans to make vital home repairs to roofs, foundations, windows or plumbing, heating and electrical systems. In Rochester, some of this money is also used to help homeowners eliminate problems related to lead-based paint, which has been linked to a range of health problems.

►Tens of thousands of dollars was used for initiatives that help senior citizens age in place and retain their longtime homes, including transportation and legal services, home safety assessments and installing bathroom handrails and grab bars.

Numerous officials say that if the funding stream dries up, they would face the difficult choice of asking local property taxpayers to shoulder an additional burden or doing without.

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2.5 million consumers hit by financial crisis ready to reenter housing

The time frame for borrowers who were significantly hit after the financial crisis to improve their credit score is about to happen, opening the door for a lot of consumers to reenter the housing market.

According to Experian‘s latest analysis, foreclosures, short sales and bankruptcies remain on a credit report for seven years, which means these items are due to fall off the credit files of 2.5 million consumers between June 2016 and June 2017. read more…

Woman to Watch: Raelyn Allen determined to overcome – Democrat & Chronicle – September 26, 2016

Woman to Watch: Raelyn Allen determined to overcome

by: Arlene Hisiger


Raelyn Allen (Photo: Darren Miller)

By the time she was 31, Raelyn Allen had survived a serious car crash, earned multiple academic degrees and became PathStone Corporation’s deputy director of grants and programs.

“Raelyn is tenacious in her endeavors, whether representing PathStone or in her role as a volunteer in the community to support critical services for families in need of safe, affordable housing,” says Susan Boss, executive director, The Housing Council at PathStone.

Recently awarded the Super Hero Award from the Community Asset Partnership Network, Allen admits to having a passion to help others since childhood.

An “ah-ha” moment for her occurred after being introduced at one of her volunteer venues as someone who brings in millions of dollars to the community.

“Sometimes I get so caught up in writing grants, meeting deadlines and advocating on behalf of those in need, I forget that I’m part of the solution,” says Allen.

In less than a month after being appointed to the board of RESOLVE of Greater Rochester, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to break the cycle of domestic violence, Allen assumed the role of co-chair of “Domestic Violence Stinks” — a campaign that employs a creative approach to a disturbing phenomenon.

“By implementing this campaign, I aim to both increase funding and community awareness of this pressing problem,” Allen says.

RESOLVE’s executive director Allison O’Malley says, “Raelyn is a dynamic and committed young professional who is determined to leave this world a better place than she found it.”

Personal: 31, single, lives in Rochester.

Occupation: Deputy of housing grants and programs. I am responsible for grant writing for PathStone’s housing counseling line of business, which includes: low income first-time home buyers, foreclosure prevention, veteran housing, rapid rehousing and other affordable housing programs.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and women’s studies, West Virginia University and a master’s degree in women’s history, University at Buffalo.

My average work day: I begin with prioritizing my to-do list. My job consists of interfacing with funders, creating comprehensive grant applications for submission across multiple housing programs, securing funding for vital programming, and keeping up with the needs of the community through research in order to help shape funding streams.

Community activities and achievements: Co-chair the Connect Division of the United Way Young Leaders Club Advisory Council, facilitate the South East Neighborhood Safety Net serving residents in need, and received a Community Super Hero Award from the Community Asset Partnership Network.

Biggest challenge I overcame: I was in a terrible car accident my second year of college that seriously injured both me and members of my family. I had to take off an entire semester of school due to the injuries. I was afraid this would affect my graduation date. Once I was cleared to go back to college, I took summer courses the rest of my time in undergraduate school. I graduated with two bachelor’s degrees despite the accident, and was accepted into graduate school where I received my master’s degree.

Who mentored me: Catherine Cerulli, associate professor of psychiatry at URMC, who daily advocates for the rights of women; County Legislator Karla Boyce, who tirelessly supports the youth of our community; and Susan Boss, executive director of PathStone Corporation’s Housing Council, who oversees the provision of housing opportunities for families in need. In different ways, all three have taught me perseverance, patience and to believe in myself.

What I’m reading: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.

My favorite app: Soundcloud.

My advice for someone starting out: Don’t be hard on yourself. Work hard and stay the course. Starting your career is scary. Believe in the path you are on.

Arlene Hisiger is a freelance writer in the Rochester area.


Manchester Town Justice Edwin Williams censured

Manchester Town Justice Edwin Williams censured

A state disciplinary agency has censured a town justice in Ontario County over his handling of two eviction cases.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct said Friday that Manchester Town Court Justice Edwin R. Williams failed to properly hear defenses from tenants or to properly review documents involved in summary eviction proceedings, which he heard in 2012 and 2013.

Williams agreed to the censure.

His attorney, John Tyo, said Friday that Williams has been a town justice since 1971 and has no other disciplinary history. Williams appeared to have properly handled 20 other eviction proceedings in the same period, according to the commission’s determination, which described his missteps as “isolated.”

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Cuomo Planning Discrimination Protections for Transgender New Yorkers

Taking action on a political issue that has long been stalled in Albany, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday announced executive action intended to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and other areas.

The governor, addressing the crowd at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, said he would direct the State Division of Human Rights to issue regulations that extend protections against discrimination found in a 1945 law to cover gender identity, transgender status and gender dysphoria.

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How the mortgage process just changed – CNN Money – October 6, 2015

How the mortgage process just changed
By: Kathryn Vasel

New disclosure rules went into effect in the mortgage world Saturday that require lenders to provide home buyers two new forms that clearly detail their loan terms.

“For consumers, it’s going to be viewed as an improvement in what can be a somewhat scary and intimidating process in the biggest investment of their life,” said David Stevens, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The rule, formally known as the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure rule, reduces what used to be four forms from two different government agencies to two forms: the Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure.
Here’s what buyers can expect:

Comparing different loans


Lenders have to provide potential home buyers a Loan Estimate form within three days of a submitted application.

The three-page form details the terms of a potential loan including: amount, interest rate and whether the figures can change after closing.

Clearly breaking out these figures should make it easier to compare loans from different lenders (yes, you should shop around) to find the best rate and terms. Be sure to pay attention to whether the interest rate is fixed or adjustable and any potential future penalties you could face.

The form will also breakdown estimated closing costs.

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