Members of Community Board 12 don’t need home foreclosures to be in the headlines to know the damage they continue to cause in the neighborhoods of Southeast Queens.
Neither does Robert Tilley, a counselor with Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica.
“District 12 still has the highest number of foreclosures in the city, as well as the highest foreclosure rate,” Tilley said on April 17 at the monthly meeting of CB 12.
NHSJ was founded in 1974, largely in response to the practice of “red-lining” in which banks and insurance companies denied services or charged exorbitant costs based on neighborhood locations.
And Tilley said things around his 162nd Street office are pretty much as busy as they were when the national housing boom went bust.
“We have four counselors in my office,” he said. “Recently we held a workshop where 50 people showed up. Four of us with 50 new cases on top of what we already have ... “We’re busy every day. We’ve got too much work to do.”
In her monthly report to the board, presented before Tilley’s talk, District Manager Yvonne Reddick reminded people that foreclosures affect whole neighborhoods.
“You’ve all read a lot about home values going down,” she said. “You can’t just say, ‘Thank God it’s not me.’”
After the savings and loan crisis in the 1980sand 1990s, several bank executives served time in prison. But thus far the U.S. Justice Department has been disinclined to push for prosecutions under two presidents.
Tilley said federal regulators and the courts have been somewhat successful in getting some of the larger banks in the country to make settlements to address past predatory lending practices.
He said much of the money that has come to New York State is going toward programs and services to help homeowners put off foreclosure.
But direct financial assistance to people with houses underwater — those that are now worth less on the market than is remaining on an outstanding mortgage — has been a tough sell.
One settlement, Tilley said, involved numerous homeowners.
“Some people have gotten only $300,” he said to a shocked room at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in St. Albans. “It remains to be seen what kind of money people will get.”