Initiative designed to assist home owners behind in mortgage or tax payments
Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns and members of the Erie County Zombie Foreclosure Task Force have created the “Stay in Your Home” campaign in response to the impending foreclosure crisis due to the unprecedented financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Stay in Your Home” initiative was established to provide free information and assistance to homeowners who are delinquent or in danger of falling behind in their monthly payments; assistance in negotiating with their mortgage company; or simply advice with paperwork or help to evaluate further options while staying in their home.
Kearns said, “It was identified by our team that, during times of hardship, scam artists are contacting homeowners by phone, internet and by mail looking for money or to allegedly offer assistance. Unfortunately, many homeowners fall prey and either move out of their home or do not make the best choice for them and their family.”
Kate Lockhart, abandoned property program director, Western New York Law Center, said, "In order for Western New York to thrive, it is imperative that homeownership is protected. When families have resources and information available to them, they can make informed decisions about the future of their homes, preventing them from leaving out of fear. The Western New York Law Center is proud to partner with Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns and all of the members of the ‘Stay in Your Home’ campaign to protect homeownership in our communities.”
With many forbearances expiring soon, borrowers will have to pay back missed mortgage payments, which did not require collection since they were in forbearance. Kearns and task force members want to ensure homeowners are aware of the free services available as well as know their right to stay in their home throughout the foreclosure process.
“Foreclosures don’t only impact the homeowner but the entire community,” said Jeneen M. Hill, assessor for the towns of Evans, Collins and North Collins. “I urge anyone in need of assistance to reach out, so that the place where your memories were made doesn’t become another zombie property in your community.”
According to the county clerk’s office, lis pendens filings are a strong indicator of foreclosures. Conversely, in 2020 such filings were down by as much as 60% due to the moratorium placed on foreclosures since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For that reason, Kearns and the task force are expecting a wave of foreclosures in Erie County once the protections end.
In addition, Kearns said he is disturbed about a recent national report that over 2 million homeowners are 90 days-plus past due on their mortgage payments. This number has increased by 1.7 million during the year of the pandemic. The task force seeks to ensure its making homeowners aware of the “Stay in Your Home” campaign in hopes to avoid a spike in foreclosures as was evident during the Great Recession in 2008 and 2010.
“The need for housing counseling and assistance services available to help homeowners get back on track is more critical than ever,” said Kelly MacDonald, group vice president at M&T Bank. “M&T is committed to supporting homeownership, which is why we thought it was important to support the ‘Stay in Your Home’ campaign committee in providing these critical support services. Together, we can help more of our neighbors stay in their homes this year.”
For information on the “Stay in Your Home” campaign visit stayinyourhomewny.com or call the hotline at 716-828-8439.