NeighborWorks Targets Foreclosure Hotspots with Campaign

NeighborWorks America is marshalling its housing counseling resources to launch a foreclosure intervention effort in a select number of cities and states that have been identified as "hotspots" of foreclosure.

The quasigovernmental nonprofit organization started this foreclosure intervention initiative in Ohio last May and it is planning to expand this initiative to Indiana, Michigan and Texas, and cities such as Atlanta and Baltimore.

Within the past five years, nearly three million households have experienced foreclosure and a disproportionate number are occurring in low-income and minority communities, according to NeighborWorks America, which has a network of organizations in 4,400 communities.

The foreclosure intervention effort is aimed at homeowners on the brink of losing their homes. It employs Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counselors, who can help borrows negotiate with lenders and servicers on a suitable workout plan. The counselors also provide borrowers with financial education, employment assistance and family counseling.

Many of the intervention practices were developed by a partnership between the city of Chicago and NHS of Chicago - a NeighborWorks organization - that helped to prevent 700 foreclosures in 18 months.

Since 2000, foreclosures of all loans have increased by 50% and it is threatening to erode gains in homeownership and neighborhood revitalization, according to NeighborWorks America chief executive Ken Wade. "With all the progress we have made together, we must work even harder to stem the tide of rising foreclosures," Mr. Wade said.

NeighborWorks America, which receives federal funding, provides support for local NeighborWorks organizations and trains over 700 HUD-certified counselors a year. NeighborWorks also has a partnership with the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, which is running television and radio ads nationwide, urging troubled homeowners to call a toll-free hot line and talk with a HUD-certified counselor.

The TV and radio ads are geared toward homeowners who are in denial about their financial problems and avoiding calls from their mortgage company, according to GMAC-RFC spokesman Stephen Dupont, who also provides public relations support for the foundation.

GMAC-RFC provided $20 million in seed money to start the Minneapolis nonprofit foundation, which is dedicated to reducing foreclosures.

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