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FORECLOSURE HELP IN SPANISH

Two Latino nonprofits, one known for helping immigrants and the other for social services, will team up with the Nassau County Bar Association at its monthly foreclosure prevention clinics.

Starting next month, the Hispanic Brotherhood of Rockville Centre and La Fuerza Unida of Glen Cove will send Spanish-speaking loan-modification counselors to the bar clinics. Borrowers can get details on how to lower their monthly payments by applying for loan modifications, which are changes to mortgage contract terms, such as lower interest rates or extended contract periods.

Hispanic Brotherhood executive director Margarita Grasing said her immigrant advocacy group wants to reach more people. Counselors have been working with borrowers for four years, she said, although the pace of foreclosures has slowed dramatically and getting a permanent loan modification is taking longer than initially expected.

"Every day, it's more people coming in," Grasing said, "but a lot of people haven't finalized what they started two years ago. Most of them are still living in the same place. "The lenders can't take all these properties back. . . . All the banks want to know is you're still living there and you're taking care of the property."

Nassau County bar officials have been providing speakers on site or over the phone in various languages, because people are more comfortable discussing complex issues in their own language.

The next clinic is set for 3 to 6 p.m. July 11 at the bar association's Mineola headquarters at 15th and West streets. For a reservation, call 516-747-4070.

As usual, homeowners can meet one-on-one with the nonprofit groups, Nassau County officials and attorneys to get financial guidance, including advice on foreclosure and bankruptcy.


LAND BANK BILL PASSES

The New York Assembly and Senate have passed the Land Bank Act, a bill that would give municipalities advantages if they create nonprofit land banks to buy and rehab blighted or foreclosed real estate. The bill goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a signature.

These nonprofits would hold the properties -- essentially bank the land -- while they decide what to do with them. That holding ability would be useful as municipalities wait for properties to come onto the market so they could buy enough land to fulfill their plans.

These nonprofits, each of which would have a board of directors, would have the power to sell bonds to finance the purchase of properties or vacant land, such as those with unpaid taxes, in foreclosure or abandoned. Under the bill, these holdings would be exempt from state taxes.

With the number of vacant houses rising in the foreclosure crisis, some Long Island housing experts have advocated the idea of land banks. Vast areas scarred deep by the crisis can be made over.

"It's the perfect opportunity, and it's the perfect timing," said Peter Elkowitz Jr., chief executive officer at the nonprofit Long Island Housing Partnership. "You could do a bigger development and make a major impact in an area."

That's what happened to the Southwind Village development in Bay Shore, where Islip Town and the partnership bought the first of 39 properties more than a decade ago and built 78 affordable town homes and rentals. The vacant houses were eyesores, and the creek behind them had been clogged with trash. The land bank reinvigorated an entire block, Elkowitz said.

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