Monday, January 31, 2011

NeighborWorks Network Organizations Offer Free Tax Prep Services

As W-2 and other income forms make their way to taxpayers’ mailboxes, signaling the start of the 2010 tax season, NeighborWorks America reminds consumers to be aware of the real cost of quick refund services offered in the market today and to seek advice from nonprofit organizations that provide free tax preparation services.

Several NeighborWorks network organizations offer free tax preparation services to new and existing low- and moderate-income clients. Depending on the complexity of the return, using a free service can save each taxpayer hundreds of dollars.

The economy continues to be the big story and many NeighborWorks organizations are here to help low- and moderate-income families prepare or to find help to prepare their returns professionally, quickly and comprehensively,” said Chris Krehmeyer, president and CEO of Beyond Housing, a NeighborWorks network member based in St. Louis. “The foreclosure situation around the country means that for many there’s new paperwork and having someone experience helping out could be a big relief.”

Most NeighborWorks organizations that offer free tax preparation help are staffed with volunteer tax professionals who believe in helping their community.

NeighborWorks America also wants consumers to be financially savvy in their short-term finance decisions, particularly those that relate to tax-refund anticipation loans. Refund anticipation loans are costly and often unnecessary because taxpayers who file their returns electronically often can expect to have their tax refund within about 10 days if they choose the direct deposit option.

And despite the weaker than normal housing market in 2010, many low- and moderate-income people became first-time homeowners this year, said Roy Nash, executive director of NeighborWorks® Waco. Many of them may have never filed an itemized return and may now benefit from the longer form.

"Our volunteer tax preparers have had great training,” said Roy Nash, executive director of NeighborWorks Waco. “We think that the tax preparation service is an added value to the people of our community and is in keeping with our mission of service and economic empowerment.”

It’s best to call ahead to your local NeighborWorks organization to determine if they offer tax services or have a referral network of free, trained professionals ready to help. Contact information for local NeighborWorks network organizations can be found at

Monday, January 24, 2011

NeighborWorks and PBS Present 'Facing the Mortgage Crisis: Stopping Scams'

NeighborWorks America has teamed up with the Texas Foreclosure Prevention Task Force and Texas PBS stations to present a special program on loan modification scams. The 26-minute special, Mortgage Crisis: Stopping Scams, warns consumers about falling victim to false promises of mortgage modification or foreclosure rescue, and details information on how to identify and avoid common scams. Play the video below or if you're having trouble, view it online.

Watch the full episode. See more KLRU Presents.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brooklyn Clergy Embrace Loan Scam Alert Campaign

Use the player below, or enjoy the photos on Flickr.

Over 70 members of the clergy and community leaders from Central Brooklyn gathered for a breakfast recently to learn about the foreclosure crisis facing their community, the dangers of rescue scams, and to pledge their support for a local unified day of action, Empowerment Sunday. On Empowerment Sunday, set for February 6, 2011, clergy are asked to preach a message of proactive investment in one’s personal life and community by taking control of one’s financial future.

Brooklyn is known the “Borough of Churches”. Its Clergy have a unique opportunity to help struggling homeowners and a deep commitment to the preservation of this historic African-American community that, for many, has been their lifelong residence.

Nationally, Brooklyn ranks number 41 among counties with the highest foreclosure rate. Central Brooklyn is part of Congressional District 10, where 20% of the home mortgages are over 90 days delinquent, placing $5.7 billion dollars in community wealth at risk, reported Kenneth Tiongson of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Rev. Valerie Cousin, the First Lady of the Bridge Street AWME Church, Reverend Waterman of the Antioch Baptist Church, and NYS Assemblywoman Annette Robinson were among the inspiring speakers calling for collective action. The Clergy Breakfast was organized by Bridge Street Development Corporation, working with the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford Stuyvesant, with funding from NeighborWorks America.

"NeighborWorks America is proud to partner with Bridge Street Development Corporation and the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford Stuyvesant to bring the important messages of Loan Scam Alert Campaign to Brooklyn's clergy and their congregations,” said Deborah Boatright, Northeast District Director.

"As a national corporation, NeighborWorks has worked hard to develop an educational campaign that resonates with the communities most at risk, but it is only through partners on the ground that those messages will be heard. We are thrilled with the strong response of the ministers, and we are looking forward with great enthusiasm to Empowerment Day on February 6," said Boatright.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NeighborWorks Receives More Than $7 Million in HUD Training and Counseling Grants

NeighborWorks America and members of the NeighborWorks network were recently awarded more than $7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the department’s grants to support housing counseling and housing counselor training.

  • $3.05 million was awarded for the NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling (NCHEC).
  • $1.58 million went toward comprehensive housing counseling.
  • $300,000 was awarded for the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program.
  • $2.3 million was awarded to more than 60 NeighborWorks network organizations around the U.S. committed to providing affordable homeownership solutions to low- and moderate-income families.

“NeighborWorks is committed to providing the best and most comprehensive housing counseling services available,” said Eileen Fitzgerald, acting CEO for NeighborWorks America. “Counselors trained to high standards who deliver important, relevant and timely information about housing to consumers are critical to building strong communities. We’re excited that HUD has recognized the scale and capacity of NeighborWorks America and the NeighborWorks network to deliver these necessary services to communities all across America.”

More details about the HUD distribution can be found here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Could This Man’s Home Been Saved by a Foreclosure Counselor?

NeighborWorks America has always encouraged homeowners facing foreclosure to reach out to a HUD-approved housing counseling agency to get help with a loan modification, because for some, going it alone can be too daunting. NPR recently featured the story of Laverl Nicholson, a homeowner who lost his Montana home to foreclosure despite a year and a half negotiating with his bank. NeighborWorks America recently published a report that showed this homeowner’s odds of keeping his home would have been much stronger had he sought professional assistance sooner.

"We encourage borrowers in distress to get in touch with a HUD-approved counseling agency as soon as possible in the process," Marietta Rodriguez, NeighborWorks America's national director for homeownership and lending, told NPR.

Rodriguez’s advice is grounded in solid research. A recent independent study by the Urban Institute, of the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program, a special congressionally funded program administered by NeighborWorks America, shows the tremendous difference working with housing counselor can make.

According to the Urban Institute report, homeowners who worked with HUD-approved housing counseling agencies that got NFMC funding were 70 percent more likely to resolve an existing foreclosure than non-NFMC clients. They also reduced their monthly payments by $267 more monthly than they would have without NFMC counseling and were better able to sustain their new payments than those going it alone.

NeighborWorks is now working with the homeowner featured in the NPR story to determine if he has a viable wrongful foreclosure claim, but the lesson here is that foreclosure counseling works and it should be sought sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Dozen Organizations Fighting to Reverse Effects of Foreclosures Featured in New NeighborWorks Report

By Sarah Greenberg
Senior Manager, Community Stabilization
NeighborWorks America

I’m pleased to share with you a new report that features how 12 NeighborWorks organizations are stabilizing communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis.

These organizations work in very different markets — urban, suburban and rural — but they all demonstrate the “Five Cs of Community Stabilization,” a paradigm developed by the National Community Stabilization Trust to help define and identify effective local community stabilization efforts. The Five Cs are outlined below.*

The release of this report is timely, with the prospect of another wave of foreclosures looming and a brief pause between rounds of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, as localities prepare their plans for Round 3.

We learned a lot in the process of creating this new publication. In community development, we’re always on the lookout for innovation, but the truth is that true innovation is rare. Innovation in community development primarily happens at the margins, as a result of adapting tried and true strategies to new markets and new situations, and unfortunately, often in response to a crisis.

The report confirms what we have been seeing since the beginning of the foreclosure crisis, which is that the most effective response to rebuild and revitalize communities is the comprehensive approach that high-quality nonprofits like the organizations in the NeighborWorks Network have been implementing for decades.

Further, we found that those communities that were able to make the best and most efficient use of their Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding are the ones that invested into an existing structure of community revitalization and housing rehabilitation programs, often led by nonprofit community development corporations in partnership with their municipal housing department.

I’d love to hear what you learn from this new publication, Implementing the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP): Community Stabilization in the NeighborWorks Network.

Feel free to share your thoughts using the comment button below.

* The 5 Cs of Community Stabilization:

  1. Comprehensive – Community stabilization efforts should result from a plan that addresses all destabilizing forces in the community.
  2. Concentration – Community stabilization efforts should be targeted for maximum impact.
  3. Collaboration – Community stabilization efforts should include a broad array of partners with a strong focus on resident engagement.
  4. Capacity – Community stabilization efforts should be undertaken by organizations with demonstrated capacity in the planned activities.
  5. Capital – Community stabilization efforts should be adequately capitalized and explore creative methods to take advantage of new sources of capital.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NeighborWorks America Identified as a Top Nonprofit in Washington, DC

NeighborWorks America is one of the largest nonprofits in the Washington, DC region, according to the Washington Post. International development, relief and advocay groups help make up the "Post 200: Nonprofits" list, compiled based on GuideStar USA's analysis of the amount of money these groups spend on programs.

Over the past 10 years, NeighborWorks America has distributed more than $18.1 billion to assist more than 230 community development organizations in all 50 states, the District and Puerto Rico, and it ramped up its efforts during the recent economic and housing crises. Last year NeighborWorks announced it would distribute $119 million in 2010, focusing on identifying and educating consumers about loan modification programs, counseling homeowners at risk of foreclosure and studying the impact of the housing crisis on minorities.

NeighborWorks America is in good company in the nonprofit category, sharing the spotlight with groups such as the American Red Cross, AARP and National Geographic. See NeighborWorks' entry on the list and find out which other groups made the cut.