Ryan Calls For New Foreclosure Prevention Strategies to Be Implemented in Erie County

March 2, 2012

New Program recently announced by Chief Judge of New York State Jonathan Lippman would ensure that real negotiations take place during the foreclosure process

Pilot program set to begin this spring in Queens, Ryan calls for new strategies to be implemented in Erie County to help prevent foreclosures

Today, March 2nd 2012, New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan announced his push for new foreclosure prevention strategies to be implemented in Erie County, following the announcement of a new program set to begin this spring in the New York City area. Chief Judge of New York State Jonathan Lippman recently announced a program which will focus on reforming mortgage settlement conferences and work to ensure that actual negotiations take place during those conferences. Under the program, judges would have more control of the process and require banks to send officials to conferences who actually have the power to approve loan modifications. Additionally, the program would increase the involvement of judges by having them run mortgage settlement conferences, taking this power away from court attorneys who lack the power to impose punishments. The program would work to ensure that all parties needed to deal with a mortgage modification are in place at one time in court. This would shorten the time for foreclosure cases, and hopefully allow for more foreclosures to be prevented. This spring, the program will start up in Queens.

In a letter to Chief Judge Lippman, Assemblyman Ryan asked that important strategies from this program be brought to Erie County. Erie County already has a working system to help prevent foreclosures, but one of the main obstacles has been getting bank representatives to court that actually have the power to negotiate. Erie County has the highest rate of foreclosures outside of the New York City area. As an example of the difference in per capita foreclosures in 2011, for 90 day pre-foreclosure notices, the Bronx has a population of 1.3 million people, and 11,951 pre-foreclosure notices. In Erie County, which has a population of approximately 920,000, there were 16,424 foreclosure notices. In 2011, the Bronx actually had less per capita foreclosure notices than Erie County.

“Chief Judge Lippman should be commended for his hard work and leadership in establishing this innovative new program,” said Assemblyman Ryan. “With foreclosure rates per capita higher than some parts of New York City, Erie County would be an ideal location to include some of the strategies of this new program. Erie County already has undertaken reforms within our court system to prevent foreclosures, but one of the problems that still exists is getting banks to send representatives who can actually negotiate and approve mortgage modifications. With more enforcement power, and banks sending representatives who have real power to approve modifications, these settlement conferences will run much more smoothly and more people can stay in their homes. Allowing judges to oversee very difficult settlement conferences, rather than court attorneys, is another element that would help to enhance Erie Counties existing system. Buffalo and Erie County will benefit most if they are able to utilize these new strategies from the very beginning.”

At a press conference at an abandoned foreclosed home on Buffalo’s west side, owned by CitiGroup, Assemblyman Ryan was joined by members of PUSH Buffalo, Legal Services for the Elderly, the Western New York Law Center, West Side Neighborhood Housing Services, and Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo. All of these organizations work to assist those in foreclosure and prevent foreclosures from occurring.

“I have written a letter to Chief Judge Lippman asking that these new strategies be deployed to Erie County right at the beginning of this program when it is launched in just a few weeks,” Ryan added. “This new program contains the very strategy that Erie County is in desperate need of. The house we are at today was foreclosed on by a bank, and now sits vacant. An eyesore like this house affects the entire community. The goal is to prevent as many foreclosures as possible, and with these new strategies in place, we can hope to see the foreclosure process not drag out for years, and more people will be kept in their homes in Erie County.”

Assemblyman Ryan’s letter to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman appears below. For more information, please contact Assemblyman Ryan’s Buffalo office at 716.885.9630.

The Honorable Jonathan Lippman
New York State Unified Court System
Office of Court Administration, Rm. 852
25 Beaver Street
New York, NY 10004

Dear Judge Lippman:

I would like to applaud your efforts to combat the continuing foreclosure crisis in New York State. Although we have made progress in this area, much remains to be done. I recently read with great interest about the proposed new program which you will soon begin in Queens. I believe that bringing the banks to the table and requiring an individual with the power to negotiate to be present is critical to the process. I ask that you consider implementing some of the strategies from this new program in Erie County.

Erie County has also made great strides in overcoming the challenge of foreclosures. This county has one of the highest rates of foreclosure in New York, facing an even bigger challenge than some of the New York City boroughs. Further, this is not merely a problem facing the City of Buffalo; other municipalities such as Hamburg and Tonawanda face extraordinarily high foreclosure rates. Despite the magnitude of this challenge, the Erie County courts, the local bar association, legal service providers, and housing counselors have developed a remarkable program, which helps to ensure fair representation in foreclosure proceedings.

One of the biggest barriers to resolving even more foreclosure cases in Erie County is the lack of bank participation. A concerted effort to ensure that banks are present, with an individual with negotiating powers in attendance, as your program will do, would dramatically improve the efforts being made in Erie County. Further, although court attorneys have been great in resolving foreclosure matters, there are instances where having a judge preside over a proceeding would prove helpful.

Again, I ask you to please consider this request to incorporate portions of your new program into the foreclosure prevention system already at work in Erie County. I believe that Erie County will prove a wonderful testing ground for the effectiveness of these strategies in Upstate and Western New York. Further, providing this valuable assistance will improve the effectiveness of Erie County’s efforts and help to stem the tide of the foreclosure crisis.

Thank you for your leadership and for all of the assistance you have provided Erie County in the past and I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter.

Sean M. Ryan
Member of Assembly