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Long Island foreclosure counseling no longer one-on-one

Joan LaFemina of the Community Development Corp. of

Joan LaFemina of the Community Development Corp. of Long Island teaches a self-help course to distressed homeowners in Centereach. Nonprofits have cut back on one-on-one counseling. (Sept. 30, 2011) Credit: Heather Walsh

About 30 homeowners squeezed into a conference room last week for a do-it-yourself crash course on how to lower mortgage payments and keep lenders from foreclosing.

The class, run by the nonprofit Community Development Corp. of Long Island in Centreach, debuted there on Friday and is an example of how housing nonprofits are finding cheaper ways to counsel homeowners facing foreclosure.

Nonprofits are having to cut back on one-on-one foreclosure-prevention counseling because their funding will run out by the end of the year.

Earlier this year federal officials eliminated the $88-million pot for housing counseling nationwide, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo did not pick up the cost because of a $10-billion gap in the state budget.

Wednesday in Albany, nonprofits met with state officials to press for aid in the budget that starts April and to brainstorm for alternatives to individual counseling.

For now, the Long Island Housing Partnership in Hauppauge will test a secure computer system that can be used to conduct a two-way chat with struggling homeowners. Also, phone work will replace face-to-face sessions. “It'll become more businesslike rather than personal,“ said Carol Yopp, foreclosure prevention manager at the Housing Partnership.

This month, the Community Development Corp. will start recruiting more volunteers.

When the nonprofit goes from six full-time counselors to perhaps one next year, volunteers will do the “mundane tasks,“ such as setting up files, to free up time for manager Joan LaFemina, who may be the sole foreclosure prevention counselor.

“We can't focus on foreclosure anymore,“ she said. “It could mean that more people will lose their homes.“

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