Foreclosure filings are down sharply across the state, though Suffolk is one of four counties with the highest percentage of homes in foreclosure, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Thursday.
In a 14-page report, DiNapoli said the number of new mortgage foreclosure filings in the state had dropped 46 percent, from 46,696 in 2013 to 25,334 last year.
In Suffolk, the decline in new filings was more pronounced, with foreclosure filings off 54 percent, from 7,437 in 2013 to 3,403 last year. The drop was more modest in Nassau, from 4,340 filings in 2013 to 2,219 last year, or a decrease of 49 percent, according to data from the state Unified Court System.
However, Suffolk is one of only four counties where the number of pending foreclosure cases as a percentage of total housing units exceeded 1 percent last year, DiNapoli said. The others are Clinton, Putnam and Rockland.
From 2013 to 2018, the number of pending foreclosure cases declined more slowly in Suffolk compared with Nassau and statewide.
“While this is an improvement, the foreclosure crisis is far from over,” DiNapoli said. “New York must continue to support the programs and reforms that have helped homeowners avoid foreclosure and communities reduce blight caused by zombie properties.”
DiNapoli praised the state courts for expediting pending foreclosure cases.
Foreclosure filings in Nassau and Suffolk and pending cases
He released the foreclosure report as housing advocates push Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the State Legislature to include money for foreclosure prevention counseling in the 2019-20 state budget. The current allocation, which comes from bank settlements won by the state attorney general, ends on March 31.
“We have clients contacting us daily,” Carol Yopp, director of counseling and foreclosure program manager for the Long Island Housing Partnership Inc., said on Thursday. “Help is still needed by homeowners that are struggling with the foreclosure action. Some of them have been in foreclosure for quite a long time.”
The partnership is among 89 providers of counseling for homeowners statewide. Together, they are seeking $20 million for fiscal 2019-20 to continue their work.
Gwen O’Shea, CEO of the Community Development Corp. of Long Island, said the region has made progress in addressing the foreclosure crisis, “but we aren’t out of the woods yet.”
She said some homeowners may fall behind on mortgage payments because they are paying more in federal income taxes due to the new $10,000 cap on deductions of state and local taxes, known as SALT.
“We need to be cautious in how we look at this [new data] as success. ... Suffolk County is still in the top in terms of foreclosures” in the state, O’Shea said.
Michael Wigutow, supervising attorney for the foreclosure prevention project at Nassau-Suffolk Law Services in Hempstead, agreed, saying, “The number of pre-foreclosure notices appears to have increased from 2017 to 2018, with over 24,000 issued in Suffolk in 2018 and around 17,000 in Nassau.” The 90-day notices tell homeowners that they face foreclosure.
He said the notices are “an indicator of the potential increase in the number of foreclosure filings to come.”
AARP New York, which lobbies on behalf of people age 50 and older, warned of a future surge in foreclosure filings if funding isn’t continued for the counseling of financially strapped homeowners.
“While foreclosure filings are down, the number of pre-foreclosure notices to New York homeowners warning that they are in danger of facing foreclosure has been rising,” said Bill Ferris, the group’s legislative representative in Albany. “Letting these [counseling] services lapse would be a big mistake and could lead to a renewed spike in foreclosure filings.”