Monday, March 29, 2010

Unemployed, Underwater Borrowers Get Help Through HAMP Expansion

On March 26, the Obama Administration announced a series of adjustments to the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs to assist homeowners who have been affected by the current economic crisis.

Borrowers get assistance in three ways through the HAMP expansion: The unemployed can get a three-to-six-month forbearance on their mortgage payments, after which they will be evaluated for a loan modification. Banks will get financial incentives to reduce the principal balances of delinquent, underwater borrowers. And borrowers who are current on their mortgages, but underwater, can refinance into loans backed by the FHA.

Marietta Rodriguez, deputy director of National Homeownership Programs and Lending at NeighborWorks America, said that the recent changes are a positive move and will hopefully ease some of the pressure that those seeking re-employment are feeling.

In an interview with Rodriguez added that the expansion will help convince people to stay in their homes.

"For many borrowers, it's really hard to justify figuring out a payment plan for a property that's so underwater," she said.

Read communication about these changes from HUD Assistant Secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner David Stevens.

More information about the impact of these changes is available at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New Videos Available for Consumers Seeking Loan Modifications

Homeowners who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments are looking for relief and straight answers about the loan modification process. A set of videos were recently released that addresses some of their more pressing concerns.

Q&A Series About Loan Modification: NeighborWorks Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign recently asked homeowners to submit their questions about loan modification. Five frequently asked questions emerged and answers were captured for homeowners on video.

Your To-Do List for Getting a Permanent Loan Modification: This video from the Making Home Affordable program tells homeowners how to get a trial loan modification and what they must do to convert the trial into a permanent loan modification.

Avoiding Loan Modification Scams: This video from Making Home Affordable emphasizes for homeowners who are facing foreclosure that help is available and it is free – one of the most important things they need to know to avoid being victims of loan modification scams. Homeowners are provided with several other tips and resources, including NeighborWorks Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign web site,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Beautifying Your Property Can Start a Chain Reaction in Your Neighborhood

Construction Specialists Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty with NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County in Aberdeen, Washington, published a great article in their local newspaper about how we can all roll up our sleeves and make a difference in our communities – starting with our own surroundings.

“By getting rid of junk in our yards, washing or painting our houses or even just edging a bad lawn, we can start a wonderful chain reaction in our neighborhoods,” they wrote. “This isn’t wishful thinking on our part. It’s documented over and over again by all 200 plus NeighborWorks organizations across the country that fixing up a single house in a neighborhood stimulates surrounding owners to spruce up as well.”

Every year, NeighborWorks organizations mobilize tens of thousands of volunteers, businesspeople, neighbors, friends and local and national elected officials in a week of neighborhood change and awareness through community service. Many of these NeighborWorks Week activities include projects to clean up and revitalize neighborhoods. This year’s volunteer events will take place June 5-12, but the work can begin right now.

“Just get started!” Murnen and Beaty said. “Know your efforts will make a difference and give you — and your neighbors — a lift.” Read more about what you can do.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Family’s Journey to Avoid Foreclosure Gains National Attention

For over four years, Frank and Judi Viola struggled with a number of personal setbacks that nearly cost them their home near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Frank suffered an injury that kept him from work for six months and he was dropped from the payroll. Then the mortgage adjusted upward and the Violas fell behind on their payments. They saw the sheriff put the dreaded foreclosure notice on their front door and their home of 22 years went up for sale.

Their story has a happy ending due to the help they received from Neighborhood Housing Services of Lackawanna County, a NeighborWorks America member organization. Now The Story, a national news program has called on them to share their good news with others.

Listen to their first-hand account of how their children and a community — and ultimately their lender — helped them avoid foreclosure.

More background is available here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CitiMortgage Pilot Aims to Stop Destruction of Foreclosed Homes

A new pilot program launched by CitiMortgage allows homeowners facing foreclosure to remain in their homes for six months – free of charge. They also receive $1,000 to cover moving expenses. In exchange, the homeowners must agree not to trash the home before they turn over the keys to the bank.

Michael Van Zalingen with NeighborWorks member Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, said in an interview with NBC news that this program will help relieve a much greater problem. Vacant, looted and destroyed homes are not only less attractive to buyers, they also drive down property values in the surrounding community and encourage crime.

For the at-risk homeowners, the program allows them leave with greater dignity, and their credit scores won’t be as damaged as with a true foreclosure Zalingen said.

NBC Chicago’s article and video on the CitiMortgage program are available here.

NeighborWorks America’s stable communities initiative helps local nonprofits respond to the community challenges that arise when foreclosed homes remain vacant or abandoned. Find out more about those efforts here.

NeighborWorks America Helps Communities 'Go Green' by Awarding 170 Training and Education Certificates

NeighborWorks America, the nation’s largest trainer of community development professionals, recently awarded 170 certificates of completion to nonprofit leaders from around the country. The certificates were awarded in a range of disciplines including how to improve the energy and environmental footprint of multifamily and single-family housing, and how to engage community residents on behalf of greener living. The classes, offered at the NeighborWorks Training Institute (NTI) four times each year, are part of NeighborWorks America’s broader Green Initiative for communities.

“This was our largest number of certificates earned since we began a gradual roll-out of green courses in 2005,” commented Paul Kealey, director of training. “These are exciting times for housing developers and community leaders. Energy efficiency and better health through the use of greener products is on everyone’s mind. While the courses directly enhance the knowledge of the participants, the community-wide benefit of their learning touches thousands of people.”

The NeighborWorks America Green Initiative is a multi-faceted effort involving professional education, community outreach, targeted grants for the development and rehabilitation of housing, and participation in coalitions working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while lowering the energy and resource bills for families.

Professional education can lead to designation as Green Building and Healthy Homes Specialist upon successful completion of nine integrated courses offered by NeighborWorks America. The next NeighborWorks Training Institute that will offer courses that lead to the Green Building and Healthy Homes Specialist certificate is May 3-7, 2010 in Phoenix, Ariz.

More information is available in the NeighborWorks Newsroom.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NeighborWorks America to Distribute $119 Million in Grants in 2010

At a time when communities need resources most, thousands across the nation will receive a much-needed affordable housing and community development boost as NeighborWorks America distributes more than $119 million in flexible grants to its national network of more than 230 local nonprofit NeighborWorks organizations.

The $119 million that will be distributed in 2010 is a $38 million increase from 2009, and reflects the increased need for community development as the foreclosure crisis and recession continue to make headlines in 2010.“The need for nonprofit community development organizations has never been greater,” said Ken Wade, CEO of NeighborWorks America. “Communities are challenged by high foreclosure rates and near-record unemployment at a time when municipal and state budgets are stretched thin and private resources are growing scarce. These grants provide critical funding that strengthens local NeighborWorks organizations’ ability to serve their communities during this difficult economic time."

The 2010 grants will help NeighborWorks organizations:Provide quality counseling for struggling homeowners at risk of foreclosure;Stabilize communities hard-hit by the current crisis by putting vacant properties back into productive use;Empower consumers through financial and homeownership education and counseling;Create homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families; andProduce and manage affordable, high-quality rental properties.

For more information about the 2010 grants, visit the NeighborWorks newsroom.

Monday, March 15, 2010

EPA, HUD Award Community Housing Partners with Energy Star Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have awarded NeighborWorks member Community Housing Partners (CHP) in Christiansburg, Virginia, with the 2010 ENERGY STAR Award for Excellence in Energy-Efficient Affordable Housing. CHP received this award in recognition of its efforts to provide energy-efficient housing for low-income residents. CHP will be recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 2010.

ENERGY STAR Awards are given to a variety of organizations to recognize their contribution to the construction of energy-efficient homes that benefit the environment, while providing homeowners with significant savings on utility bills and homes that are safer and more comfortable. CHP and other award winners were selected from more than 17,000 organizations that participate in the ENERGY STAR program.

Learn more here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NeighborWorks Member Gives Congressional Testimony on Energy Efficiency Standards for Manufactured Homes

Stacey Epperson, president of Frontier Housing, one of the NeighborWorks network's largest homebuilders, sat before a Senate Committee on March 11 as part of an effort to replace old manufactured homes across the country with new, energy efficient homes. The construction of these new manufactured homes could create about 50,000 jobs and save as much as $240 million in engery costs for low-income families.

Read Epperson's testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Read New York Times article about the latest congressional efforts to implement energy efficiency standards and tax incentive programs for home and commercial buildings.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NeighborWorks NTI Participants and Staff Volunteer in New Orleans

During the NeighborWorks Training Institute in New Orleans last week NeighborWorks staff and conference participants banded together to volunteer in New Orleans’ communities. On Sunday, February 28, one day before the conference kicked off volunteers painted, hang sheet rock and did light demolition on homes targeted for first time homebuyers and the elderly.

The volunteer effort was coordinated with The Preservation Resource Center, one of NeighborWorks America’s local partners, and their Rebuilding Together and Operation Comeback divisions. Rebuilding Together New Orleans helps repair homes for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners and Operation Comeback focuses on buying, repairing and selling blighted property. The volunteer effort demonstrates NeighborWorks America’s continued commitment to Gulf Coast rebuilding partnerships.

“We selected the Preservation Resource Center as our volunteer partner because we’ve been impressed with the work that they have done, as well as many other organizations we’ve partnered with in the area. We can provide dollars and technical assistance and also help do the actual work,” said Don Phoenix, director, NeighborWorks America’s Southern District office, based in Atlanta.

We captured some of the volunteers in action. You can see them here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

NeighborWorks America Recognizes National Consumer Protection Week by Warning Homeowners Against Loan Modification Scams

In conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 7-13, NeighborWorks America and its growing coalition of national government agencies, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions are empowering homeowners to combat loan modification scams. The effort is an extension of the organization’s national Loan Modification Scam Alert campaign, designed to help homeowners protect themselves against loan modification scams, find trusted help and report illegal activity to authorities.

NeighborWorks America is an official partner of NCPW, a coordinated consumer education campaign that encourages individuals across the country to take full advantage of their consumer rights.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. While many will seek relief in the form of loan modification services, too many will instead become victims of scams.

“Foreclosure rates in America are now at an all-time high and so is the need for help,” said Kenneth D. Wade, chief executive officer of NeighborWorks America. “This National Consumer Protection Week, NeighborWorks is urging community groups and businesses across the nation to join in the effort to educate homeowners about how they can guard against loan modification scams—a fast-spreading epidemic in need of immediate attention.”

Learn more, including the six red flags that indicate you may be dealing with a scammer.

Forty-Nine Community Development Leaders Graduate from NeighborWorks’ Achieving Excellence Program

NeighborWorks America announces the graduation of 49 community development leaders from NeighborWorks America’s prestigious Achieving Excellence in Community Development program offered in association with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.The graduation of the fourth Achieving Excellence class occurred on March 4, during the NeighborWorks Training Institute in New Orleans.

Achieving Excellence is an 18-month educational program for seasoned executive directors and senior level staff in community organizations that have a focus on affordable housing, community revitalization or community economic development. Through this program, graduates specifically addressed one of the most critical challenges facing their organizations, identified and implemented solutions that not only dramatically changed how the organizations do business, but also fostered lasting community change.

Independent evaluations have shown that in just the first Achieving Excellence two classes alone, graduates have collectively achieved the following:

  • Total clients served increased by 146 percent collectively;
  • More than $12.3 million in new income generated by 23 organizations;
  • Average total assets per organization increased by 23 percent, while the average increase attributed directly to Achieving Excellence was $6,860,507 per organization with $96,047,109 in aggregate;
  • Affordable housing units developed and managed increased 32 percent and
    22 percent, respectively;
  • Approximately 2,500 new affordable rental homes developed, managed or acquired by 18 organizations;
  • 89,100 square feet new commercial space created by 7 organizations.

Learn more in the NeighborWorks newsroom.

Friday, March 5, 2010

GO Zone Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program in the Gulf Set to Expire

A recent editorial in the New York Times calls on Congress to extend a tax credit program that’s aimed at encouraging housing development in Gulf Coast states impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Gulf Opportunity Zone (Go Zone) Low Income Housing Tax Credit program provided Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with $300 million in low-income tax credits that can be recouped on affordable housing projects ready for occupancy by the end of this year. Without an extension of the deadline, the Gulf Coast states could lose financing for more than 70 housing developments and 6,000 units of affordable housing.

Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit focusing on community development and affordable housing, is urging its partners and other organizations who are interested to support a Congressional amendment currently being considered in the Senate to extend the tax credit in the Gulf.

The message from Enterprise is here. Read New York Times editorial here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Federal Reserve Board Launches Credit Card Web Site to Help Consumers Understand New Rules

The Federal Reserve Board has launched a new interactive Web site to help consumers better understand the new credit card protections that will take effect on February 22. These rules ban several harmful practices and require greater transparency in the disclosure of the terms and conditions of credit card accounts.

The site, which can be found at, summarizes the main provisions of the rules and explains how they will affect credit card users. Two interactive features will allow consumers to learn more about the terms and fees of credit card offers and about the new features of their monthly statements.

"These online tools and resources will help consumers make well-informed decisions about their use of credit," said Federal Reserve Board Governor Elizabeth A. Duke. "We will update the site regularly to provide the most useful and current information."

Read more about it in the Federal Reserve Board's press release. Visit the site.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

HOPE Now Expands HOPE LoanPort™

The HOPE NOW Alliance announced that it is expanding HOPE LoanPort™, its housing counselor Web portal, to 25 states and over 100 cities to help at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure. The portal allows Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -approved counselors to submit completed Home Affordable Modification (HAMP) applications directly to a homeowner’s servicer, track the status and provide borrowers with more timely decisions.

Five NeighborWorks Organizations will participate in the expansion: Los Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services, Community HousingWorks in San Diego, The Housing Partnership, Inc., in Louisville, Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore and St. Mary Development Corporation in Dayton. Home Free USA and Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) of Atlanta and Dallas will also participate in helping homeowners through the HOPE LoanPort™.

The program began in December 2009 with several servicers and housing counseling agencies affiliated with NeighborWorks America and Home Free USA. According to HOPE Now, housing counselors and servicers involved in the pilot have provided positive feedback on the portal, including that it eases the document traffic jam that has plagued the system. This means that decisions can be made faster and struggling homeowners can get the help they need sooner.

Monday, March 1, 2010

USDA Provides $25 Million to Help Low-Income Appalachians Make Mortgage Payments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is setting aside $25 million in mortgage funds for low-income homebuyers in Central Appalachia. The money is being provided to the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE), a NeighborWorks member organization based in Berea, Kentucky.

The program targets pockets of poverty in the Central Appalachia states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Through the program, low-income buyers will get mortgage payment assistance and interest rates as low as 1 percent. Some who qualify may even get 100 percent financing.

Known as The 502 Demonstration, these funds will be made available based on USDA’s existing Section 502 Direct Loan program, which received substantialnew funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or Stimulus Bill, passed in February of last year.

Learn more about it here.