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Rising Foreclosure Cases Are Leaving Brooklynites Homeless

And with a lack of affordable housing availability, many of them have no where to turn.

Imagine, if tomorrow, housing were magically made available for every homeless family in Brooklyn.

The sad fact is, all 5 boroughs of New York City saw a significant rise in new foreclosure cases during the 3rd quarter of 2017, shows PropertyShark. Brooklyn and the Bronx are the major sources behind the increase in new forecloses. And the neighborhoods of East New York, Canarsie, Flatlands, and Bedford-Stuyvesant have experienced the highest cases in the borough.

A property falls into foreclosure when a homeowner lags behind on mortgage payments. Technically speaking a “homeowner” actually does not own the property until the mortgage is fully paid. If the homeowner can not pay the outstanding debt, or sell the property via short sale, the lender (bank) takes the house as a penalty for nonpayment. The property then goes to a foreclosure auction.

There are several reasons why folks fall behind on their mortgage payments. Some reasons include: significant increases in the cost of living, loss of employment, poor money management, divorce, illness, and fraudulent activity. Some borrowers land in foreclosure more than once for the same property; after becoming current on payments, they default again. Some know they have time before the foreclosure actually goes through because New York is a judicial state; proceedings must go through the court system.

Non-payment of the mortgage is not the only way to lose a house. A homeowner could still lose the property after paying off the entire mortgage. Property owners must pay property taxes and when the taxes aren’t paid, the delinquent amount becomes a lien on the house. Lamar Higgins learned the hard way about liens.

“I experienced a flood of powerful emotions, on Thursday, November 9th, as a Kings County Supreme Court judge auctioned off my family’s brownstone,” lamented Higgins. He says, long before the 9th, he had desperately reached out to the Legal Aid Society, Legal Hand Organization, judges, politicians, advocates, and friends. He is now financially spent and physically drained. Nonetheless, in 60 days, if not for a miracle, he and his ailing 64-year-old cousin, Richard McClean, will be homeless.

Higgins contends the trouble began when McClean’s father died in 1985. Cecil C. McClean owned the deed to 922 Lincoln Place in Crown Heights. Cecil died without a will and his sons Richard and David became the “alleged heirs.” Both sons lived at 922 until David died in 2015.

Higgins says, “a Jaime Lathrop, Esq. was appointed by the courts, Successor Guardian of Property and Person of Richard in November of 2013. The court papers also stated that upon “belief” David sold his 50% ownership of the property to a Panama Land Corporation located 231A Main Street, Eastchester, New York.” Higgins, who also lives at 922 Lincoln Place and advocates for Richard, is tired and frustrated. He has asked questions — gotten no answers — only the boot.

Yet, in the midst of the frightening numbers of foreclosures, there Is a hidden-in-plain-sight success story, according to a New York Times article. “Of more than 60,000 New York homes built or rehabilitated by the city in partnership with nonprofit groups like Nehemiah over three decades, fewer than 1 percent have fallen into foreclosure.”

These organizations offer a comprehensive support system which includes help with buying and repairing a home, getting a loan or loan modification, homeownership classes and more. Nehemiah in the Bible, for whom the Nehemiah Project Community Development Corporation is named after, asked the king for permission to rebuild Jerusalem. He learned of the horrific living conditions of the people of Judah and had to take action.

We, at OurBKSocial, believe that everyone regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic condition, or physical or mental ability has the fundamental right to safe, secure, and affordable housing.

Presently, the number of foreclosures are rising, evictions remain high, and African-American and Latinos are disproportionately affected by homelessness in Brooklyn. Something is tragically wrong here. We don’t need a quick fix (more shelters) but a well thought out human-centered urban plan.

As Jarbari Brisport, who ran this year for City Council in the 35th District says, “my vision for the district, city, and planet is – a world free from hunger, poverty, and homelessness. We must work together, in harmony with our environment, for the betterment of humanity.”

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