US Representative William Keating stood in front of a crowded room at Quincy City Hall on Monday, and laid out the facts about foreclosures.
According to the congressman, there have been 273 new foreclosures in the last 60 days in the South Shore alone. In addition, the amount of foreclosures in the region went up 46 percent in 2010 when compared to 2009.
They are numbers that are staggering, worsening, and avoidable, Keating said.
It was for that reason that Keating, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, Norfolk County Register of Deeds William O’Donnell, and Neighborhood Housing Services of the South Shore members came together to discuss a new program to prevent foreclosures, and to help those who find themselves on the brink of losing their homes.
“We’re here, trying to work through this problem. We hope it lessens…but we’ll be here to work through this situation [in the meantime],” Keating said, as the governmental representatives nodded their heads behind him.
With a federal block grant, called the HOME program, as well as with help from the Neighborhood Housing Services, through the NeighborWorks program, South Shore residents will be able to attend any one of a series of workshops to get more informed about foreclosures.
The free counseling workshops, scheduled in Quincy, Weymouth, and Braintree, received backing from numerous South Shore towns, including Quincy, Weymouth, Braintree, Milton, and Holbrook.
“We’ve had an opportunity to try to find out how, as communities, we can do things together,” Koch said. “This is a unique problem, and hopefully we’ll be able to make a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”
Braintree’s Mayor Sullivan applauded the initiative, which he called both preventative and aggressive.
“The federal government and municipal government are all enjoined in this effort,” Sullivan said. “It is more than a home…and we need to do all we can so families can stay in their homes.”
According to Robert Corley, the Executive Director for the Neighborhood Housing Services of the South Shore, the foreclosure problem, initiated by a declining economy, has only persisted with unemployment.
For many, coming to Housing Services is a last resort, when it should really be the first.
“We want to reach out to the families that are on the bubble. The families in foreclosure, they find out about us … it’s the folks who are depleting all of their savings, wracking up credit card debt, then finding out that there is no way they’ll be able to pay their mortgage anymore and then coming to us,” Corley said. “If they came to us a little earlier, we could really let them know what their options are.”
“This is something that saves money, that keeps people independent, that keeps families independent, and allows people to be self-reliant,” Keating said. “Isn’t that the theme we [all want]?”
According to the congressman, despite the adaptability of the HOME grant funding, which gives federal funds to regions throughout the United States to be used however the money can be utilized best, the money for the program had recently come under attack in Congress.
“It’s a strong program, one under siege in Washington, but one we’re willing to defend,” Keating said. “The criticism of the program is it wasn’t helping enough people, but in committee testimony on this bill, there were so many people helped in a preventative sense…
“We had testimony from lenders that 2 million foreclosures were averted from even hitting that formal stage because this program was in place,” Keating said.
In addition to having prevented foreclosings, over 600,000 foreclosures in process were averted through this program’s help.
Keating hopes for similar success in the South Shore, where residents of any income level struggling in whatever way can come and receive advice.
The three workshops will take place in Quincy on Thursday, April 28 from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m. at the Quincy City Hall second floor conference room. There will be a second meeting in Weymouth, on Thursday May 12, from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. at the Weymouth McCulloch Center.
Braintree will additionally host a counseling session on Wednesday June 8 from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m. at the Braintree Town Hall auditorium.
All workshops are free and are open to any member of the public. Residents are encouraged to go to Housing Services’ website for a list of the suggested documents to bring to the meeting.