Government

Putnam County Housing Corp. Funding in Jeopardy

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From left, PCHC Co-Executive Director Diane Chipman and staff members Patrick Synan, Margherita Diaz and Joan Fish Credits: Bob Dumas
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MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Unless funding is restored to the New York State 2017-18 budget, a service that provides assistance to Putnam County residents who face foreclosure will be discontinued and area residents could see an increased tax burden.

The Putnam County Housing Corp. (PCHC), as part of a coalition called Protect New York Homes: Foreclosure Prevention Services Network, is urging lawmakers in Albany to allocate $30 million back into the budget or “vital services for homeowners and communities will be lost.”

PCHC, which has offices on Seminary Hill Road in Carmel, guides homeowners facing foreclosure through the court system and helps them work with the banks in their refinancing efforts.

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In a letter of support to the PCHC, Putnam County Commissioner of Finance William J. Carlin Jr. wrote that the agency’s services, which are provided free of charge, are crucial to maintaining growth in the local economy.

“Demand for foreclosure prevention services in Putnam County remains high as 228 Putnam households lost their homes in 2016, an increase of 156 from 2015,” Carlin wrote. “PCHC’s efforts on behalf of Putnam County residents facing foreclosure are well-documented with 562 households assisted and 146 stabilized in the last three years. If the source of funding for these services…dries up, our local communities potentially face an increased tax burden for non-performing single-family residential homes, while these families will be at risk of homelessness.”

Carlin said he supports the PCHC’s efforts to have $10 million included in the governor’s 30-day amendments and an additional $20 million for the next state fiscal year.

Patrick Synan, a foreclosure prevention counselor for PCHC, said that the current funding ends Sept. 30.

“Beginning Oct. 1 we will not have the funds to provide these [foreclosure prevention] services for Putnam residents,” he said.

Synan said that while new home sales in Putnam have seen a  welcomed improvement ( Putnam County experienced the most fourth-quarter real estate sales—310—in two decades, according to a recent report), foreclosures continue to be a challenge.

“We believe the foreclosure services we provide continue to be a significant value and provide residents with the support they require,” he said. “Right now, we are still providing all the services we have for foreclosure prevention counseling. We are still meeting with clients, still signing them up, still trying to help them.”

But if funding isn’t restored, those programs will likely come to a halt.

“We would be seriously impacted. The issue becomes if we don’t get the funding, where do local Putnam residents go to get these services?” Synan said. “Whether we could provide some of them, I don’t know, but what we are doing now would cease to exist. We don’t know where homeowners in Putnam would go. Would they go to local politicians to say, ‘Hey, I need help.’ Then where would the politicians go? This is all across the state. We are in Putnam, so we are concerned about Putnam, but this impacts all these services statewide.”

PCHC staffers said should their funding be shut down, they worry about residents having to face the prospect of foreclosure alone.

“We attend foreclosure settlement conferences that are held at the court here with the homeowner to help them through the process so they don’t have to pay an attorney,” said Margherita Diaz, a PCHC foreclosure/financial counselor. “Our concern is: what happens if we are not here to do that anymore. It leaves them to go there by themselves, or not even knowing they have to go there.”

Senior citizens, they said, will be particularly vulnerable.

“The governor put in place some new rules for seniors who have reverse mortgages and are now going into foreclosure,”  said Dianne Chipman, co-executive director of PCHC. “If [PCHC] is not here they won’t be able to implement the laws he’s put in place. “It’s very important [to get the funding back].”

PCHC officials said there is a letter being circulated by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (District 41 – Brooklyn) and Sen. Jesse Hamilton (District 20 – Brooklyn), asking that their fellow legislators restore the funding. They said they have reached out to local lawmakers, including senators Terrence Murphy and Sue Serino, as well as Assemblyman Kevin Byrne and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, to sign on to the letter.

“Indications are that many [legislators] are signing on to the letter and it looks promising but we need as much of a push and support as we can get,” Chipman said.

When contacted by Mahopac News, both Murphy and Byrne indicated they would support reinstating the funding.

“We are all very much aware of the needs of the Putnam County Housing Corp. and the valuable service they provide to the community,” Murphy said.“I have already joined several of my colleagues in calling for the restoration of the critical funding the PCHC relies on.”

Byrne said he met with representatives from the Putnam County Housing Corp. last week.

“The work these people do brings real value to our local communities and deserves the support of our state government,” he told Mahopac News. “The PCHC is on the front lines assisting families who are facing foreclosure. They are a key part of the solution to prevent further escalation of zombie homes in our communities and they provide important services to warn residents of the growing ‘rescue’ scams that take advantage of people facing pending foreclosures.”

Chipman said the state budget will be in place by April 1.

“Then we will know whether or not we have been funded,” she said.

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