According to a recent report by the New York State Office of Court Administration, the past year showed some promising trends in mortgage foreclosure cases. While the overall number of foreclosures initiated increased, it is still below the historic highs seen in 2009 and 2010. More importantly, the number of settlement conferences – designed to keep borrowers in their homes – has increased dramatically.
In the reporting period ending October 2014, there were 118,394 settlement conferences statewide. This was an increase of 29% from the previous reporting period. The majority of these were adjourned, meaning there is still some hope to save these homes. There were positive resolutions observed as well: fully 1,868 foreclosures were discontinued or dismissed.
The percentage of homeowners represented by legal counsel at these conferences has also continued to increase. Since 2011, when 33% of homeowners had legal representation, the percentage has gone up each year. In the last reporting period, 58% of homeowners were represented. This is a direct result Attorney General Schneiderman’s Homeowner Protection Program (“HOPP”). The Attorney General has committed a total of $100 million over five years including $40 million over the next two years in HOPP grants. Along with our partners at Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo and The Western New York Law Center, Legal Services for the Elderly is a HOPP grantee representing homeowners in foreclosure throughout the greater Buffalo region.
Credit is also due to Chief Judge Lippman’s commitment to funding legal services programs across the state. To quote the OCA report:
“Providing civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers remains at the forefront of the Judiciary’s agenda. That nearly 60% of homeowners are now represented in the foreclosure settlement conferences is a testament to the unwavering commitment of Chief Judge Lippman to provide counsel to those at risk of losing their homes.”
We hope that 2015 sees more success in preventing foreclosure, and in ongoing struggles against questionable corporate practices leading to the “Shadow Docket” and abuses by unscrupulous loan servicing companies.