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OpinionCommentary

NY should continue to help homeowners

Dozens of nonprofits across the state - including 16 on Long Island - will be forced to shut down services after March 31 unless Albany steps up to help fund them.

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For more than a decade, Long Island homeowners have been able to turn to a trusted, legitimate, free statewide network of nonprofit help to tackle complex housing challenges. These housing counseling and legal service organizations have protected our communities by preventing displacement, stopping foreclosures, and supporting families so that they can stay in the homes and neighborhoods they love.

But 89 organizations across New York — including 16 on Long Island — will be forced to shut down services for vulnerable homeowners after March 31 unless the state steps up to fund the network. Long Island Housing Services Inc. is no exception: We will have to cut the majority of foreclosure prevention staff — including counselors, attorneys, and support staff — who have helped homeowners since the start of the foreclosure crisis.

The network has helped more than 100,000 New York homeowners avoid displacement because of foreclosure, scams or mortgage distress. Its services are supported in part by bank settlement funds available through the state attorney general’s office. The only alternative is for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include network funding for these programs in the state budget.

Even a decade after the housing market collapsed, Long Island has not fully recovered from the tide of foreclosures that battered many of its communities. Nassau and Suffolk counties have the highest foreclosure rates in the state and have seen an increase in mortgage defaults — including an increasing number of seniors who are getting in trouble because of their reverse mortgages. On top of that, Long Island will suffer new waves of foreclosures due to the Trump administration’s misguided tax policies that include capping the deduction on state and local taxes.

With the loss of nonprofit foreclosure-prevention housing counselors and attorneys as the first line of defense, Long Island communities will suffer a series of aftershocks from increased foreclosure sales. The courts and local governments will be overwhelmed with requests for assistance with no place to turn, while property values and tax collections will drop. The system of protections that New York State has put in place to protect homeowners and communities from unnecessary foreclosures would grind to a halt. Meanwhile, distressed homeowners unknowingly may turn to scammers looking to defraud them out of their cash or property.

Cuomo has been a leader in ensuring that every New Yorker has a safe, affordable home. By dedicating $20 million in his executive budget to this network, he can make an investment in the future of homeownership and the stability of neighborhoods across the state.

Ian S. Wilder is the executive director of Bohemia-based Long Island Housing Services Inc.

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