Rx For Homeowners: Ferguson’s Foreclosure Fix

Paul Bass PhotoThe foreclosure crisis has receded from the headlines, but it remains real for tens of thousands of Connecticut families—who should check into a lifeline that Willona Ferguson caught.

That was the message delivered Tuesday morning at one of New Haven’s rescue spots: Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), a not-for-profit builder that since 2009 has also helped people avoid foreclosure through a HomeOwnership Center.

Over 22,000 families have lost their homes to foreclosure in Connecticut since 2010, according to interim Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) chief Norbert Deslauriers (pictured Tuesday with NHS chief Jim Paley). Another 30,000 homeowners are currently at risk of losing their homes because they’re at least 60 days behind on mortgage payments.

Deslauriers came to a press conference at NHS’s Sherman Avenue headquarters to announce that his agency is accepting applications for its Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (EMAP). That program offers short-term fixed-rate subordinate loans for up to five years for people at risk of losing their homes because of a hardship. (Click here for details.)

Willona Ferguson of Newhallville got one of those loans.

Ferguson (pictured at the top of the story) fell behind on mortgage payments after complications from surgery left her unable to work. Her lender filed for foreclosure on her Read Street home. On Christmas Eve 2013 CHFA informed Ferguson, a single mom with three kids still at home, that it would lend her $20,000 under EMAP. She got the money. She kept her house.

She also completed a bachelor’s degree. She’s working again, as a case manager at Columbus House emergency shelter. She thanks NHS’s Bridgette Russell, who runs the agency’s HomeOwnership Center, for guiding her through the process. Officials urged other families in town to follow Ferguson’s lead and contact EMAP if they face foreclosure.

“This is a prime example of bringing government resources to bear” to stabilize neighborhoods, Mayor Toni Harp said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (pictured) also pumped the program. Earlier Tuesday he held a separate press conference at NHS to highlight a bill he has introduced in Washington to offer eviction protection to tenants whose landlords fall behind on mortgages. The bill would extend the expired Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act, which allowed tenants to remain in their homes for at least 90 days after a foreclosure or until the end of their lease. That law expired last December.

“As a matter of common sense and basic fairness, families should be spared life on the street when landlords shirk their obligations,” Blumenthal stated in a release. He said renters occupy an estimated 27 percent of properties, and 40 percent of units, in foreclosure.

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