September 27, 2010 | last updated March 25, 2012 4:09 am

State Keeps Focus On Foreclosure Crisis

Last month, nearly 400 people met one-on-one with their lenders as part of a foreclosure prevention workshop in Brockton.

At the workshop, there was a young couple who brought their 6-week-old baby with them. They bought their house two years ago, but the union-worker husband had lost his job and foreclosure is looming. The couple walked out of the workshop with the prospect of saving up to $400 a month on their mortgage, and more importantly, saving their home.

Financial Squeeze

All too often now, families like this one are the face of foreclosure. As the number of home losses resulting from exotic predatory loan products declines, the victims of foreclosure look more and more like middle class, working people who are out of work, have had their hours cut or experienced unplanned financial setbacks. At the Brockton workshop, I met nurses, teachers, small businessmen and city workers. If we want to see the face of foreclosure today, we need only look in the mirror.

While our economy is starting to rebound, there is no time to spare for thousands of families who, individually and then collectively, are trying to save their homes. The Patrick-Murray administration sponsors and organizes workshops like the one in Brockton last month as part of a comprehensive effort to alleviate the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts.

Last month, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that will help keep people in their homes and stabilize neighborhoods. The law extends the 90-day right-to-cure on foreclosures created in 2007 to 150 days and requires lenders to make good-faith efforts to address a homeowner's situation.

New protections through establishing mortgage fraud as a crime and increasing consumer protections in the area of reverse mortgages are also now in place.

The new legislation builds off a law signed passed in 2007 that has helped thousands of homeowners stay in their homes. On the neighborhood level, more than $63 million in state and federal funds have been targeted to neighborhood stabilization. Individually, more than 7,000 homeowners have been assisted through $4 million in grant funding for regional foreclosure education and prevention efforts. The Division of Banks has negotiated 1,350 stays of foreclosure, and approximately 3,500 homeowners have attended 12 foreclosure prevention workshops organized by my office around the state.

At two workshops last month, more than 800 people were able to meet with their lenders or a housing counselor. These workshops are vital to our prevention efforts as they give the homeowner and lender the opportunity to meet and discuss possible solutions. What our parents and grandparents took for granted — meeting with the bank that held their mortgage — now requires the coordinated efforts of state and local governments to pull off for the benefit of thousands of distressed homeowners. The workshops eliminate the frustration for homeowners of dealing with a different voice on the phone each time they call, or being told paperwork has been lost or is incomplete and must be entirely resubmitted.

These workshops came on the heels of new changes made to the federal Home Affordable Modification Program in an effort to provide additional resources to struggling homeowners. Importantly, the new rules focus on the unemployed homeowners who need help the most, and the fastest.

With these federal improvements and the work of the Patrick-Murray administration over the last four years, there are more tools than ever available to homeowners and lenders as they try to find solutions to an individual's possible foreclosure. Even as the face of foreclosure changes, we continue to focus on working with local housing advocates and national lenders to make sure as many families as possible stay in their homes.

Barbara Anthony is the undersecretary of the Patrick-Murray administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

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