February 8, 2008

State Works to Restore Dream of Home Ownership

By Carrie Lopez
Director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs

Just a short time ago, California’s communities were the most desirable real estate markets in the nation. As we are all painfully aware, we have become known as ground zero for the mortgage crisis. In San Diego County alone, foreclosures rose 353 percent in 2007, and the county’s notices of default – the start of the foreclosure process – increased 128 percent to 20,138 in 2007. But this is not just a financial problem, and it is not just about dollars lost and properties vacant. It is about California’s people, its families, its broken neighborhoods and communities. For San Diego and communities all across California, these are hard times.

This Wednesday, San Diego area homeowners have an opportunity to get help. The governor’s interdepartmental task force on non traditional loans, in partnership with Councilman Tony Young, will host a Foreclosure Prevention Workshop that will work one-on-one with homeowners facing problems with their mortgages.

Credit counselors, loan servicers and lenders will offer on-site assistance as well as personalized options for homeowners. Experts from the public and private sector attend and discuss various alternatives to foreclosure, such as short sales, workouts or refinance possibilities.

The workshop will also provide homeowners with an opportunity to receive valuable information firsthand; information that many may otherwise be unaware of. For instance, the first thing borrowers in distress need to do is communicate with their lenders since it is costly for a lender to foreclose. Approximately 40 percent of people facing foreclosure have not even approached their lender. Oftentimes, lenders are willing to go the extra mile with a borrower to avoid the expense of a foreclosure and subsequent resale.

Wednesday’s workshop is one of nine being held in the hardest hit areas of California. It is a very important piece of a larger effort to address the mortgage problem.

The most important step is consumer education. The state has two very important resources available to consumers. The newly launched English and Spanish language mortgage websites, www.yourhome.ca.gov and www.sucasa.ca.gov provide borrowers with helpful information about the foreclosure process, tips on working with lenders to avoid foreclosure, and how to file a complaint with the appropriate regulatory agency, if a borrower believes a violation of the law occurred. The HOPE Hotline 1-888-995-HOPE or www.995HOPE.org provides free mortgage counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The state is stepping up its outreach to consumers in other ways as well. We are encouraging borrowers who believe they were put into a loan product through deceit or misrepresentations to file complaints. The Departments of Corporations, Financial Institutions and Real Estate are poised to take action to get the predators out of the business.

While it may not be possible to stop all foreclosures entirely, through consumer education we can take steps to help families keep their homes strengthen our neighborhoods and communities, and restore the dream of home ownership.

Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Workshop
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
O’Farrell Junior High School
6130 Skyline Drive
San Diego, CA 92114

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