New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday a $60-million program to assist struggling homeowners facing foreclosure on Long Island and beyond.
The new Homeowner Protection Program will fund counseling and legal services for those unable to afford hiring help in the fight to keep their homes.
“You can’t protect your rights if you do not know what they are and no one should ever have to face off with a bank alone,” Schneiderman told reporters at the Long Island Housing Partnership offices in Hauppauge.
On LI alone, the foreclosure rate increased last year by 50 percent in Suffolk County and 34 percent in Nassau County, according to the attorney general.
“For many people, Long Island symbolizes the American dream of middle class homeownership, but since the housing bubble burst, we have suffered among the highest foreclosure rates in the state,” said Peter Elkowitz, executive director of LIHP.
The funding comes from a $150-billion settlement over foreclosure abuses reached between five banks, 49 states and the federal government.
Legal services free of charge for homeowners dealing with foreclosure had expired in April, but this initiative will extend the assistance another next three years.
Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, said that this program should be a model for other states on how settlement money should be spent.
“Too many families are paralyzed with fear,” said Donovan. “They have been taken advantage of and inundated with calls and letters trying to take advantage of them. What people need to know is that there is free help available.”
The attorney general’s office will work with the Empire Justice Center and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods to determine the best organizations to receive funding through the program.
Those interested in applying for the program can log on to its website, www.nysmortgagesettlement.com