SUN Fights & Wins: $400,000 And Counting!

What does SUN do to stop the predatory lenders that are taking advantage of low-income families? We fight for our neighborhoods! And SUN wins!

In the merger frenzy of recent years, Citifinancial bought the country’s worst predatory lender, The Associates. Groups like SUN, working together under the banner of National People’s Action (NPA), started an intense organizing campaign to bring Citifinancial to the table. NPA groups across the country were determined to end the high interest rates and hidden fees used by The Associates to scam low-income homeowners out of their houses. Our neighborhoods would be destroyed if these practices were continued by Citifinancial.

The hard organizing work by neighborhood groups resulted in a May 2003 agreement that obligated Citifinancial to review all loans submitted to them by SUN and other NPA groups and to repair the loans where necessary.

As of August 16th 2004, SUN has submitted 47 loans to Citifinancial for review. 20 families have had their loans repaired and 19 are waiting for Citifinancial’s response. The results have been incredible. Families have had points and fees waived or reimbursed. Interest rates have been reduced. Some families have had loans partially or completely written off.

In total, SUN has helped families save over $400,000 in fees, interest modifications and loan write -offs. And that’s just half the families we submitted for review! What SUN is most excited about is the number of foreclosures that were avoided as a result of these loan repairs. Modifications were made that extended the term of the loan, lowered the interest rate and brought the loan current. This enabled the family to afford their payment and keep their home.

SUN doesn’t just work with Citifinancial borrowers. If you, or anyone you know, is having a hard time making their monthly mortgage payment, call Kelly Obit at the SUN office at 476-7475.

Organizing To End Predatory Lending

SUN’s Banking Committee held an exciting public meeting on Thursday May 27th. Over 100 residents from the south and near-west sides of the city heard about our victories in fighting predatory lending.

Predatory Lending is any loan that seeks to take advantage of the borrower and steal the equity in their home. These modern day loan sharks come at families at every stage of the process:
1) When a family applies for a loan–Crooked appraisers inflate the value of the house, making it impossible to refinance or get a home equity loan for repairs.
2) When your loan is approved– The loan often has outrageously high interest rates and hidden fees.
3) When you pay on the loan–servicing corporations play games to get you to pay late fees and for services you don’t need.

Working with a coalition of neighborhood groups from around the country under the banner of National People’s Action, SUN has been able to win for Syracuse agreements with both CitiFinancial and Fairbanks Capital Corp..

SUN was privileged to have Inez Killingsworth, one of the co-chairpersons of National People’s Action and a long-time community activist from Cleveland, Ohio on hand to explain the national agreements and how local families can work with SUN to improve their mortgage loans.

People at the meeting were able to hear from top officials from Citifinancial’s offices in N.Y.C. commit to reviewing all loans submitted by SUN. These same officials toured our neighborhoods with SUN’s Banking Committee and committed to working with SUN to find a way to provide more funding for homeownership and home repairs.

If you have a loan with either of these companies, call SUN at 476-7475 today. SUN will get your loan reviewed and you may be able to have the terms of the loan renegotiated.

SUN was also happy to announce two more targets for our ongoing campaign to end predatory lending. HSBC bank has purchased one of the worst loan shark lenders in the country–Houshold Finance Corp. SUN is calling on local officials to meet with SUN and negotiate a similar agreement to repair the loans of families that have been ripped off by Household Finance.

SUN also announced that we will pursue justice for the families that have been abused by Fred Hawkins, owner of Joshua Herman Associates. Many families purchased shoddy homes with loan shark financing, crooked appraisals and shyster legal advice–all provided by Mr. Hawkins. Sheila Golden, an owner of a Fred Hawkins-sold home, energized the crowd with her determination to bring these parasites to justice. Many people rose to their feet when asked if they had dealt with Mr. Hawkins or his cronies. Those sleazeballs’ days are numbered!

Mayor Announces New Foreclosure Intervention Program

There are many reasons why there are so many vacant houses on the south and near-west sides of Syracuse. One reason is an explosion in the number of bank foreclosures. A SUN study of records filed in the County Clerk’s office showed 308 families losing their homes since November of 2001–that’s one family every three days.

At a press conference held at SUN’s office, Mayor Driscoll, SUN and Home Headquarters officials announced that the Mortgage Foreclosure Intervention program is open for business.

SUN has been campaigning for over two years to bring a comprehensive foreclosure prevention program to Syracuse. In Rochester, a program that offers budget counseling and loan renegotiation helps save the homes of 89% of its client families.

Mayor Matt Driscoll committed to funding a similar program for Syracuse in his February 2004 State of the City address. $200,000 of Community Development funds will finance the program over the next two years.

SUN will not receive any funding, but will assist Home Headquarters in promoting the program, making referrals and serving on its advisory board.

IF YOU ARE IN DANGER OF LOSING YOUR HOME–CALL ANGELICA AT 474-1939 extension 246. Call as soon as you know you may miss a mortgage payment. The key to saving your home is to ACT NOW!

JP Morgan Chase: Just Pimps, Moochers & Crooks

20 SUN members protested today at the main branch of JP Morgan Chase downtown at 1 Lincoln Center. SUN wants JP Morgan Chase to live up to its obligations under the federal Community Reinvestment Act–if you take deposits from neighborhood residents, you must make loans in those neighborhoods.

This action is part of a coordinated Day of Action against JP Morgan Chase during its attempts to buy Bank One and become the nation’s second largest bank. Over the next three days groups affiliated with National People’s Action (N.P.A.) in cities like Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Springfield (IL), Des Moines and Wichita will all be confronting JP Morgan Chase and demanding a meeting with President Bill Harrison.

At one time, JP Morgan Chase was the number one lender in SUN’s neighborhoods on the south and near-wet sides of the city. But in the fall of 2003, JP Morgan Chase decided to eliminate salaried mortgage officers from their Community Development department. Since this change, JP Morgan Chase has not made a single loan in the ten census tracts that make up SUN’s area.

At a March 5th meeting with SUN and other N.P.A. groups, Mark Willis, the head of JP Morgan Chase’s Community Development department stated that it is against the bank’s corporate policy to sign CRA agreements with community organizations to increase lending in low-income neighborhoods.

SUN and N.P.A. never give up. We need good banks that are committed to making loans in low-income neighborhoods. Right now, JPMC means “Just Pimps Moochers & Crooks”

A Story About Syracuse

(SUN handed out this flyer at the city of Syracuse’s Public Hearing on the 2004-05 Community Development Block Grant budget on Wednesday March 10, 2004)

A city and its residents are often compared to a family. This is a story about the family of Syracuse.

Syracuse’s ex-husband was a gambler. He gambled on wild economic development schemes that promised big payoffs. He hired an employee to locate these crazy schemes. He built a new building for a company that promised to make plastic toe-caps for work boots (and then diversify into medical eyeball implants!) He bought a big building and fixed it up with all kinds of high tech gizmos to lure the local power company as a tenant, going deeper and deeper into debt.

These high risk gambles were big failures, leaving the family of Syracuse with large debts. The ex-husband left town and ironically wangled a job with the city’s largest creditor.

The city’s new husband has taken responsibility for paying off the loans. He called a big family meeting. He told everyone that times are tight and that all the funds for services for the family would have to be cut–the fund for house repairs and the funds for services for the kids would all have to be sacrificed. “Don’t worry,” he assured the family, “we’re all in this together.”

When the family got a look at their new budget they were amazed to find that not everyone was sharing in the family’s sacrifice. The new husband had increased the salaries for all the household’s servants, as well as the fees paid to the family’s accounting firm–the same group that had advised the spendthrift ex-husband. The family begged the new husband to go to the creditor and negotiate a better deal on the loan terms. He said he’d get around to it–but he never did.

Unfortunately, this is a true story.

Cast of Characters

Ex-husband–former Syracuse Mayor Roy A. Bernardi (current Assistant Secretary at HUD in Washington, D.C.)

New Husband–current Syracuse Mayor Matthew J. Driscoll

Boot Toe Caps/Ocular Implants–Spectrum Med Systems
(Defaulted on $2.5 million loan)

Big Building w/ high-tech gizmos–Addis & Deys Building
(City took out $18 million loan to purchase and rehab.)

Household Servants–Dept. of Community Development
Administration and Technical Services:
(2004-05 Community Development Block Grant budget increase: $127,629 Total budget allocation: $2,337,664–6% increase)

Family Accounting Firm–Dept. of Economic Development Technical Services:
(2004-05 Community Development Block Grant budget increase: $58,163 Total budget allocation: $518,163–11% increase)

Family’s largest creditor–HUD Section 108 Loans ($6.2 million in repayments out of CDBG in the last decade, $2 million this year alone).

SUN’s Banking Committee Strikes Again!

SUN’s Banking Committee has been working very hard for the past two years. Residents from the south and near-west sides are trying to drag banks back into our neighborhoods. Fleet Bank had made 0 loan in our neighborhoods in several years–that is correct: 0 , none, zip, nada, bupkes. Now they are making loans. M & T is meeting with SUN to develop a partnership. Solvay Bank and the Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union are already partners and working hard in our neighborhoods. How has this come about? SUN and its mighty Banking Committee, that’s how!

Want to join in on the fun? Call Kelly at SUN 476-7475

CRA Agreement To Bring SUN Neighborhoods Good Loans

At noon today, SUN and the Syracuse Cooperative Federal Credit Union (SCFCU) will sign a Community Reinvestment agreement. The ceremony will take place at the new SCFCU branch office, located inside the Southwest Community Center 401 South Avenue.

The agreement includes initiatives to increase marketing and outreach on the south and near-west sides of Syracuse. The Community Reinvestment agreement will help the SCFCU in their stated goal of doubling the number of loans it makes in SUN’s neighborhoods.

SUN residents are excited about having a lending institution in the neighborhood that is willing to make loans. Many traditional lenders have pulled out of our neighborhoods–refusing to make the kind of loans that enable families to buy a first home or repair their current homes. The vacuum created by the lack of good loans has been filled in our neighborhoods by predatory lenders–modern day loan sharks that take advantage of families with high fee, high interest rate loans.

Claire McGrath, Southside resident andd a member of SUN’s Banking Committee said: “It’s good to have a lender in the neighborhood that is excited about making loans in our neighborhood. They are a valuable resource and we need to take advantage of that by giving them our business.”