IRVINGTON, NJ — Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders President Britnee Timberlake is on a mission to spread the good news that there is help for struggling homeowners trying to stave off foreclosure and stay in their homes, thanks to the nonprofit organization Boston Community Capital and its Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods initiative.
Timberlake is planning to bring Jessica Brooks, vice president of Development and Communications for the nonprofit financial management company to Irvington, she said Monday, Sept. 26, during an appearance at the East Orange City Council’s regular meeting.
“I’ve spoken Freeholder Lebby Jones and officials in the town and we’re going to schedule a date to come through and give a presentation just like we did in East Orange.”
Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher has been in the forefront of the fight to keep struggling homeowners in town in their homes since the Great Recession began in 2008, and she has organized numerous seminars and informational meetings in town in an attempt to connect people in need to the organizations that can help them.
Witcher said she would welcome Timberlake and Brooks to Irvington.
“We need all hands on deck and the more people willing to help find a way to keep homeowners in their homes, the better,” said Witcher on Wednesday, Sept. 28. “It’s either that the bank will give the loan modification or they won’t. It’s a case-by-case basis.
‘We have foreclosure rate of 47 percent in Irvington now. That’s half the town. There’s no longer a moratorium, so people are going to be evicted.”
Witcher said she wished more homeowners in need had participated in the various forums and seminars the NAACP and other like-minded organizations in town organized as a bulwark against the rising tide of home mortgage foreclosures in town. It’s still not too late for some homeowners to take advantage of Boston Community Capital’s S.U.N. initiative, she said, but it is too late for others.
“When the workshops started in 2010, I wish the people would have come then,” Witcher said. “They did know then that we were having workshops on foreclosures and predatory lending. But nobody thought they had a problem then. The window of two years means the two years they might have worked against the foreclosure and predatory lending has brought them up against the window when they are facing eviction now, rather than loan modification or any other remedies.”
Timberlake, who also runs a nonprofit organization that helps families in need, said going to East Orange with Boston Community Capital was strictly to serve as the intermediary to connect residents with organizations and elected officials in Essex County for their own benefit.
“There is zero relationship between what I do as my other occupation,” said Timberlake. “This is just something we came across as the Freeholder Board. The S.U.N. initiative is a nonprofit.”
“The Stabilizing Urban Neighborhoods initiative is a foreclosure-relief initiative that Boston Community Capital launched about six years ago, in response to the foreclosure crisis,” said Brooks on Monday, Sept. 26. “We were concerned about the impact foreclosures were having, not just on individual families, but on neighborhoods and communities, because when a foreclosure happens in a neighborhood, it affects the individual homeowner that’s going through that foreclosure, but it also affects the entire family — the kids who might have to go out of school, and it affects their community, because property values go down. If a home becomes vacant, you could end up with those vacant buildings becoming magnets for crime and just contributing to the overall instability of that community, which ends up costing the municipalities and ends up costing the community, in terms of equity.”
Foreclosures can have a “ripple effect,” Brooks said, and, more often than not, this is negative. So in response to the all the mortgage defaults and foreclosures that have affected millions since 2008, Boston Community Capital began its S.U.N. initiative.
“Boston Community Capital is 30-year-old nonprofit. We’re a community development financial institution that spent 30 years investing in affordable housing, in child care, in schools and in community health centers — all the things that it takes to build neighborhood stability,” said Brooks. “And when we saw the foreclosure crisis happening in 2008, 2009, 2010, we saw its potential to really take down all those accomplishments that we had all worked so hard to achieve through the years.”
“So what we did was, we looked at the situation and said there are a lot of folks who can’t afford a mortgage on what their home is worth, but there are some folks who, while they can’t afford that pre-bubble price or that bubble price on their home, they’ve stabilized their financial situation right now. They can actually afford a mortgage on what their home is worth right now. Their bubble price might have been $250,000, but now houses in their neighborhood are going for $150,000.”
Brooks said this was how the S.U.N. initiative took root.
“So we said, ‘Wouldn’t it make sense if you could underwrite that homeowner, understand what they could afford to pay, and then reach out to the lender and say: Here’s what this property is worth we’ve got someone who’s a buyer who’s willing to pay,’ ” said Brooks. “We purchase the property at the current market value and we sell it back to the homeowner the same day, with a mortgage then can afford.”
The terms of the new, renegotiated home mortgages are typically 30 years, but those can also be renegotiated in the homeowners’ favor at a later date.
“We’re a nonprofit organization; we’re mission-focused and mission-driven,” said Brooks. “There’s a way to use money based on your values, as opposed to just using it for something else and that’s really what we’re trying to do. Our focus at the end of the day is keeping folks in their homes. We’re trying to do it in a sustainable way. We borrowed this money from investors. We pay them a fixed rate of interest and then we lend to homeowners at slightly more than that. We’re in it for the long haul.”
To learn more about the S.U.N. initiative program, visit www.bostoncommunitycapital.org.