The Southern Brooklyn Community Organization
SBCO Counseling Services
Homeownership | Mortgage Counseling Program
SBCO’s Homeownership Counseling Program was launched in 1993. With time, these services have proven to be invaluable to potential low and moderate-income homebuyers. Absent the guidance provided, these first-time homebuyers are not able to navigate the home-buying process and ultimately attain the homeownership dream. The program has steadily expanded in terms of clients served, mortgage applications submitted and mortgage commitments obtained. In addition, SBCO Counselors help to determine homebuyer’s eligibility in applying for New York City’s HomeFirst Downpayment Assistance Program. This program offers eligible low and moderate-income clients grant money toward their down payment.
To date, the program has counseled over 5,000 clients.
Program services include:
- Initial screening to identify and determine housing needs;
- Credit analysis;
- Home ownership budgeting, including: analysis of income, expenses and debt carrying abilities;
- Assisting clients in best presenting credit histories on mortgage applications and related documents;
- Assisting eligible clients in qualifying for and obtaining City grant toward down payment;
- Assisting clients in determining the most appropriate loan product based on individual circumstances;
- Advocacy for clients with bank loan representatives throughout the loan process;
- Counseling applicants whose mortgage applications were denied by offering assistance in removing banks’ objections.
Additionally, as interest rates fluctuate, SBCO assists low and moderate-income homeowners in refinancing their mortgages. During the past 18 years, SBCO counselors facilitated over 1,200 mortgages - cumulatively worth of over $360 million.
To the best of our knowledge, to date, none of these mortgages has been foreclosed upon. This truly remarkable track record is attributable to the rigorous process SBCO employs with its mortgage-counseling clients. The comprehensive curriculum educates clients to effectively manage their finances, thereby avoiding defaults on their mortgage obligations.
In the community served by SBCO, the obstacles faced by homeowners are compounded by other difficulties, including: language barriers, a lack of information regarding affordable loan products, and hurdles in the approval process. These issues are addressed at SBCO by its multi-lingual staff which is fluent in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, French and Hungarian. They are knowledgeable and sensitive to cultural and social diversities within the community, as well as the financial obligations unique to its populations. As a result, clients have confidence and trust in both the counselor and the process. Most clients require intense counseling, and the time spent from initial intake through closing, averages between 15 and 18 hours.
In the period of 2008 - 2010, SBCO received funding from New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) for its Homebuyer Assistance Program, utilizing federal HOME funds to offer homebuyer assistance grants to eligible participants. During this period, $600,000 in grants was distributed. These funds were used for down payment assistance and/or closing costs towards the purchase of a first home. These funds enabled eligible applicants to achieve home ownership by reducing their monthly principal and interest payments to an affordable level. Coupled with New York City’s HomeFirst Down-payment Assistance Program, eligible clients received cumulative awards upwards of $40,000 each, in grants. Presently, with HOME funds exhausted, SBCO continues to assist clients in obtaining the City’s grant.
Foreclosure Counseling Program
With the onset of the housing crisis and subprime mortgage meltdown, and ever increasing incidents of mortgage foreclosures in 2009, SBCO expanded its services. Utilizing its counseling expertise and experience, the organization introduced foreclosure prevention and default counseling to homeowners in the pre-foreclosure and/or in foreclosure stages. Given its reputation and experience within the community, the organization has proven to be the natural place for residents to turn for assistance. Counseling is provided by staff, certified by NeighborWorks and CNYCN / NEDAP.
The Elements of Intervention of the Counseling Program are:
- Detecting early delinquency
- Ensuring households respond to notices
- Assessing reasons for delinquency
- Managing the crisis
- Creating an effective action plan for implementation
- Providing financial training
- Managing finances
- Prioritizing spending
- Participating in and supporting client’s negotiations with lender/servicer or creditor
- Referral Network
- Providing referrals to other organizations and/or legal counsel.
Counseling sessions are conducted one-on-one, within a private office setting to insure confidentiality. A conference room is available to accommodate more participants. Client files are kept confidential. Information and documentation gathered by counselors is placed in individual folders and files are stored in a secured cabinet. Other confidential data is stored electronically in password protected files.
The counseling process consists of four stages: Intake, Action Plan, Outcome and Follow-Up.
News articles featuring homeownership issues and the availability of special products and counseling services through the organization are highlighted in local press publications and in SBCO’s newsletter, The HOME Advocate. However, SBCO’s most effective outreach is accomplished by a self-perpetuating mechanism – satisfied customers. Almost every loan commitment brings a new client who has heard, by word of mouth, about the dedicated one-on-one individualized service, and the impeccable reputation of the organization.
SBCO’s Mortgage Counseling Program and Foreclosure Prevention Counseling Program are funded by NYS and NYC administrative grants. These include funding under the Housing Services Grant administered by the NYC DYCD, NYS HCR Neighborhood Preservation Program, NYS HTF Foreclosure Prevention Services Program, and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods (CNYCN). Additionally, the organization has been awarded funding from various corporate and private foundations.
A Typical Counseling Session is outlined below:
Intake Counselors help gather basic information and all of the pertinent documentation needed to achieve the most ideal settlement with the bank.
All documentation is reviewed to help assess the circumstances and develop an action plan. The counselor will familiarize the client with the foreclosure process by discussing various approaches and possibilities, including legal assistance, in order to educate and enable the client to take an active role in the decision-making process.
Action Plan At follow-up meetings, counselors will proceed to implement the proposed action plan. This includes: opening a goal-oriented dialogue with the lender/servicer; counseling the client with ways to budget finances to maximize the chances of success of the outcome; assist clients to manage the crisis, until the outcome is achieved. If it becomes apparent that legal assistance is needed, the plan will include referrals to legal service providers.
Outcome SBCO continues to participate in and support the client's negotiations with lender/servicer and to offer assistance to the client until the intended outcome is reached. Outcomes may include: a refinanced loan, a repayment plan, a loan modification, a forbearance agreement, a mortgage reinstatement or sale of the property.