HUD CHARGES MASSACHUSETTS APARTMENT BUILDING OWNER WITH DISCRIMINATING AGAINST FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging the owner of a 24-unit apartment building in Holyoke, Massachusetts, with housing discrimination for denying units to families that have children. HUD’s charge alleges that Nilma Fichera, who owns and manages New York-based N.A.G. Realty, LLC, violated the Fair Housing Act when she refused to show or rent apartments to families with children because she could not certify that the building was free of lead-based paint.

HUD, MAYOR BING ANNOUNCE "TRANSITION PLAN" TO RETURN DETROIT HOUSING COMMISSION TO LOCAL CONTROL

DETROIT -U.S. Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez today joined Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to announce a transition plan to return the Detroit Housing Commission to local control. HUD assumed control of the agency in 2005.

Consumer Advocacy Group Weighs in on AG Settlement

Rumors have been circulating for some
time that the Obama Administration is pressuring the 50 state attorneys general,
the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to
settle with major banks over issues relating to errors in servicing and
foreclosure abuses including the robo-signing uproar.  The settlement has been controversial and several
attorneys general including those in California, Delaware, and New York have opted
out of the settlement and/or launched independent lawsuits of their own,
claiming the settlement is not sufficient to the offense.  The rumors have intensified over the last few
days based on a theory that the President hopes to announce the settlement
during his State of the Union Address tonight.

Today the Center for Responsible Lending
which has been an early and outspoken critic of mortgage lending came out in
favor of the settlement saying, while it isn’t perfect, it would represent an important
step forward in addressing foreclosure abuses

“The settlement would include key reforms to clean up unfair mortgage
servicing practices,” the statement from the Center said.  “It would also provide an important template
for ways banks can use principal reduction to reduce unnecessary foreclosures
and put the country back on a path to economic recovery.”

While the Center admits that not all
details of the settlement are available as yet, but based on current
information, the key reforms include:

  • The
    elimination of robo-signing as banks would agree to individually review
    foreclosure documents according to the law.
  • Adoption
    of practices that would improve communication with services and end servicer
    abuses including fairer treatment for homeowners who are late on mortgage
    payments.
  • More
    sustainable loan modifications including a requirement that banks “get serious”
    about reducing principal balances.
  • While
    the state AGs would be prohibited by the settlement from pursuing further
    actions against the banks, the Center said that nothing in the settlement would
    prevent homeowners from suing on an individual basis nor would the settlement
    shield the banks from prosecution for criminal activities or from claims based
    on mortgage securities violations, fair lending suits or claims against the
    Mortgage Electronic Registration System.
  • The
    settlement would be enforceable in court by an independent monitor.

The Center said that its research
indicates that the country is only about half-way through the mortgage crisis,
but the proposed settlement would wrap up a year-long investigation into
robo-signing and other abuses and is “crucial to containing the damaging
effects of foreclosures on our economy.” 
It stresses, however, that additional policy actions on multiple fronts
is a necessary addition to the settlement.

…(read more)

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Obama Faces Heat from Left on ‘Robosigning’ Talks

Associated Press
The Obama administration is facing criticism about a possible settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses.

For quite a while now, liberals have been unhappy with the Obama administration’s approach to the housing crisis. Now they’re getting organized.

The Obama administration came under fire Monday from Democratic lawmakers and liberal groups. They say a forthcoming settlement over alleged foreclosure abuses won’t do enough to punish the banking industry.

Administration officials and state attorneys general have been putting the finishing touches on a settlement with major banks following foreclosure-processing problems that erupted into public view in fall 2010.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Associate U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perrelli were meeting in Chicago on Monday with Democratic attorneys general to review potential settlement terms, according to a spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who has been leading the talks. The officials were scheduled to hold a separate conference call with Republican attorneys general later in the day.

State and federal officials are “discussing the details of the progress we have made so far in settlement negotiations, including the terms we must still resolve,” Mr. Miller said in a statement. “We have not yet reached an agreement with the nation’s five largest servicers, and we won’t reach a settlement any time this week.”

When a settlement is finally reached, it will inevitably draw criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill and other conservatives. They have long been critical of the settlement process. Last spring, several Republican attorneys general argued that mandating principal reductions is unrelated to the foreclosure abuses that took place.

Speaking to U.S. mayors in Washington last week, Mr. Donovan said the settlement would benefit about 1 million U.S. households with reductions in the amount they owe on their home loans. Mr. Donovan hailed those principal write-downs as “perhaps the most important step we can take in the short term to help the housing market.”

Criticism of the potential settlement is growing, even before its final terms are made public. The settlement’s rough outlines have been known for a while, but an area of uncertainty has been what additional legal claims prosecutors could bring once a deal is signed.

Activist groups, including MoveOn.org and local organizations, said they were protesting outside the Chicago hotel where the attorneys general were meeting on Monday. They also held protests last week at offices of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. They argue that the administration (which, of course, is led by a onetime community organizer from Chicago) should not agree to the settlement without a full-fledged investigation of banks’ conduct.

Some lawmakers agree.

“When it comes time to pay the penalty for fraudulent foreclosures, Wall Street banks again are trying to pass the buck,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) in a conference call with reporters Monday. “Instead of thorough investigations…instead of criminal prosecutions, we’re talking about not much more than a slap on the wrist.”

Representatives for HUD and the White House did not immediately comment.

A settlement would end months of negotiations among federal officials, state attorneys general and at least five of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers: Ally Financial Inc., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. The talks center on “robo-signing,” in which bank employees approved legal documents without proper review, and other questionable foreclosure practices.

The five banks and the state attorneys general and Obama administration officials are pushing a deal of $19 billion or more, depending on how many states join. The Obama administration has been pushing for a deal involving all 50 attorneys general, but Democratic attorneys general have called the proposed settlement inadequate.

HUD Provides $54 Million to Help Missouri Recover from Last Year’s Severe Storms

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan today allocated $400 million in emergency aid to help communities in eight states to recover from presidentially declared natural disasters in 2011.