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Mt. Kisco Seminar Highlights Reality of Foreclosures

Legislators were issued a call to action last Thursday night at a public forum presented by Westchester Residential Opportunities Inc. to address the housing crisis. The conference delivered the message that foreclosures hurt all New Yorkers: properties lose value, tax bases erode, and neighborhoods decline.

These effects, enumerated in a press release from the offices of the New York’s Empire Justice Center and the NeighborWorks Alliance, have hit the state hard.

But the WRO public hearing, held by the fair housing non-profit and advocacy group at Mount Kisco’s Holiday Inn, allowed residents to express the personal anguish they felt when their homes were foreclosed upon.

Attendee Dana Levenberg, Chief of Staff to New York State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining), said her office sees many people who say they have done everything the bank has asked them but their homes were still foreclosed upon. Levenberg said her office will refer homeowners to organizations like WRO, which offers mortgage default counseling.

The symposium featured a panel of experts representing a wide range of state and local groups and government agencies.

Panelist Robert Schrupp, systemic investigations manager for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, urged homeowners to take advantage of assistance programs like WRO and to seek adequate representation in foreclosure proceedings.

Schrupp's presentation also detailed how foreclosures hurt all New Yorkers. Citing a chart made available by the National Association of Realtors, he stated that in the second quarter of 2007, the median price of a house was approximately $550,000. In the 2011 market, however, that price was about $425,000, a drop of 25% from 2007.

“The industry is benefiting by continuing the status quo,” Schrupp said. He reminded the audience that every one of them has a stake in avoiding foreclosures just as much as a person whose home has been foreclosed upon by the bank.  “The investors in many cases are us,” he said. The money that is involved in these issues “is our 401ks and our teacher retirement plans and our police retirement plans.”

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