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Foreclosing on Brooklyn homeownership dreams

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While Wall Street is being pounded from the continuing mortgage crisis, homeowners throughout working-class Brooklyn aren’t faring too well either, according to several borough non-profits working locally on the issue.

“Fifty-four percent of all mortgages in Central Brooklyn are in one state of foreclosure or another,” said Carol Finegan, a foreclosure prevention counselor at the nonprofit Brooklyn Housing & Family Services.

Finegan said the hardest-hit neighborhoods include Canarsie, Flatbush and East Flatbush.

Unfortunately, these homeowners who are in trouble because of taking out subprime mortgages often go back to the same dishonest brokers looking for help and wind up paying more money to them without getting any help, she said.

The BHFS recently partnered with the the Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation in receiving a $720,000 state grant to provide outreach, education, financial counseling, legal representaion and court-based services to more than 1,000 borough households facing foreclosure.

“We have been doing foreclosure prevention counseling for the past year and a half, and the biggest hole we had was not having legal services for the people with which we were working,” explained Finegan.

Finegan said the money, which was allocated through the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), will pay for an additional two counselors along with two attorneys and a paralegal.

Currently, the BHFS services about 250 homeowners and the money will increase the combined capacity between the two organizations to help another 500 homeowners, she said.

Finegan said that as these homeowners undergo possible foreclosures, they usually also fail to pay property taxes and water bills.

With banks also going belly up, they won’t pay the taxes either, which can lead to blighted conditions in the city, she said.

Finegan suggested that the answer may lie with banks allowing for ‘short sales,’ meaning homeowners can sell to realty bargain hunters at a price less than what the mortgage is valued.

Meanwhile, the DHCR also gave a grant of $446,000 to the Greater Sheepshead Bay Development Corporation (GSBDC) and its partnering agency, the Midwood Development Corporation (MDC), to provide similar services to southeastern Brooklyn homeowners, mainly in Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest and Midwood.

MDC Executive Director Linda Goodman and GSBDC Executive Director Ellen Susnow said that between the two organizations there are about 6,000 homeowners facing some type of pre-foreclosure.

“We want to keep them in their home. This whole idea is to try to prevent them from going into foreclosure,” said Goodman.

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