(Photo: Brenda Ann Kenneally)
From NY Magazine:
Like so many residential roads in America, Beach 70th Street has become a battleground. On this one-block street in Arverne, Queens, partway down the Rockaway Peninsula, nearly half the homeowners have found themselves at war, each with a different opponent: HSBC, IndyMac, Wells Fargo, Bank of New York, Long Beach Mortgage. Every time a bank or mortgage company prevails, another neighbor disappears. And then there’s Jacqueline Tamaklo, who lives in a two-family house near the end of this dead-end street. In a neighborhood with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the city, Jackie at times seems to be the last one standing.
If New York has a foreclosure capital, it’s some eight miles north of Jackie’s house, in Jamaica. Every day, desperate homeowners file into an office on 162nd Street, beneath a modest blue awning: NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSING SERVICES OF JAMAICA. The original mission of this nonprofit was to help people buy and fix up homes; these days, the agency is focused more on what it calls “homeownership stabilization” — or helping people hold on to what they’ve already got. Recent visitors include an 82-year-old widow who unwittingly signed over the deed to her house; a Spanish-speaking waiter who refinanced twice and now has a $513,000 interest-only loan; and a nurse who got injured, fell behind on her mortgage, and nearly lost her house.
Most of the homeowners who walk in are African-American; the rest are mainly immigrants. There are bus drivers and home health aides, teachers and sanitation workers. Everybody shows up with an armload of documents: mortgages, deeds, tax returns, pay stubs, bank letters. Some carry their papers in manila envelopes; others stuff them into shopping bags; one woman filled an entire laundry cart and wheeled it in. In the waiting room, they slump in their chairs. One woman refuses to take off her sunglasses lest anyone see her cry. Nobody needs to tell these people they are “losers” — as Rick Santelli did in his infamous CNBC rant. They appear to have gotten the message already.
By now, the counselors here have seen every variation on the foreclosure saga: People who purchased houses they could not afford; people who got mortgages they could afford at the time but then lost their jobs; people who took out a second mortgage only to watch their monthly payments jump out of reach; people who were tricked into signing loans with terrible terms. While each story is different, there are certain themes: Of the first-time homebuyers, most got their houses through “one-stop shops” in which all the players work together—the real-estate agent, mortgage broker, lawyer, and appraiser. This approach certainly simplifies the home-buying process, but the buyer usually winds up with a horrible deal: a dilapidated house with a jacked-up price tag and a lousy mortgage.