Thursday, July 2, 2009

NoMi And NY Working Together On Mortgage Foreclosure Issues...

Photo By John Hoff 

About a month ago, Hawthorne Housing Director Jeff Skrenes (pictured above) shared a story about receiving a call from another neighborhood association wanting some of his increasingly-renowned expertise on the mortgage foreclosure crisis, including the kind of innovative lawsuit which the Hawthorne Neighborhood used against CitiMortgage.

It's fairly common for Jeff to be pressed for his expertise, but this call was different. This call came from NEW YORK CITY. I delayed writing about it for a while because, well, I wanted to give that neighborhood in New York some time to deal with the issue they were dealing with. And I got busy.

Here's the story, as told by Jeff in an email...


This week I got a call from a representative of a neighborhood in New York City. They were having trouble with a problem property on their block that is in foreclosure. The mortgage company that financed the deal is none other than Citimortgage.

(JNS editorial comment: Boo! Hiss! Boo!)

So concerned residents did some research about how small neighborhoods have stood up to mortgage companies, especially
Citimortgage. And guess who turned up? That's right, Hawthorne.

Here's a link to the NY neighborhood's story:

From what I remember in my discussion with this person, the land was worth about $80,000 several years ago, and then someone acquired it for $300,000 and got an additional $180,000 in construction loan dollars. The possibly baseless increase in value is certainly suspicious, but the new owner proved that slumlord tricks aren't limited to just Minneapolis.

(JNS asks: was there EVER a hypothesis which stated as much?)

He built a multi-level monstrosity that didn't conform with anything else in the neighborhood. He didn't pull proper permits, instead opting to play a game of chicken with the city and neighborhood about whether he could put a multi-family house up in a strictly residential neighborhood.

Thankfully, he lost that battle even though the structure got built, and the place has remained vacant. It's now in some late stage of foreclosure, although I couldn't say exactly what because New York's foreclosure laws and procedures are different than Minnesota's. And even if I could describe what specifically is going on, it would probably be so full of mortgage geekitude that nobody would understand anyway.

(JNS says: If by "nobody" you mean non-mortgage geek humans, sure)

Much of our conversation centered around my informing this person of the specific steps we took to achieve success. I won't go into those details because they are already well-documented on your blog and in other areas. (But mainly on your blog, especially since Strib links go dead after a while)

(JNS says: Some STrib links seem to stay alive longer than others, as I've discovered, but any excuse to criticize dead tree media is OK with me)

I am compelled to offer an aside here that it became apparent to me during this conversation that we are actually quite fortunate in Minneapolis. Residents are plugged in to the neighborhood councils, which work closely with the city of Minneapolis and entities such as the Family Housing Fund and the Northside Home Fund, as well as city structures such as
CPED, MPD, Problem Properties, and Inspections. It was due in large part to such connections that Hawthorne was able to partner with the Housing Preservation Project and sue Citimortgage. It became clear to me that such partnerships simply do not exist in this other (New York City) neighborhood.

So yes, Hawthorne blazed a trail with our success vs. Citimortgage, but we were able to do so only because of the collaborative and groundbreaking work happening at many levels here in NoMi.

(If by "success" you mean a settlement in which CitiMortgage never admitted wrongdoing, but Hawthorne got what it wanted, sure, I can go along with that)

And we're more than happy to share what worked with folks throughout the metro and across the country.

John, feel free to add any of your commentary.

(JNS says: Yeah, thanks)

And I wanted to establish a connection between you and Victor as well.

(Is he a chiropractor? His name sounds like a chiropractor, and I could use one of those)

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