Friday, November 1, 2013

Hope Now Quarterly Fly-In

Last week I had the chance to join some of my colleagues in the housing industry at the HOPE NOW Quarterly Fly-In.  I cannot say enough good things about this organization that works to keep Americans in their homes. 

To learn more about HOPE NOW and our discussion last week, check out the summary below. 

Moderator:  Laurie Maggiano, Servicing and Secondary Markets Program Manager, Office of Research, Markets, & Regulations, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Robert Klein, Chairman and Founder, Safeguard Properties
Peter Skillern, Executive Director, Reinvestment Partners
Margo Geffen, Twin Cities Community Lank Bank LLC
Margaretta Lin, Esq., Department of Housing and Community Development, City of Oakland

On Thursday, October 24, Robert Klein joined a group of experts at the Hope Now Quarterly Fly-In to discuss vacant and abandon properties.  HOPE NOW is an alliance between counselors, mortgage companies, investors, and other mortgage market participants. This alliance is designed to maximize outreach efforts to homeowners in distress to help them stay in their homes and create a unified, coordinated plan to reach and help as many homeowners as possible. The members of the alliance believe that by working together, they will be more effective than by working independently.

 Joining Klein was Peter Skillern, Margo Geffen, and Margaretta Lin whom individually discussed how vacant and abandon properties impact their communities and described the solutions they have implemented in their regions. 

 Klein opened his remarks by discussing the devastating effects of blight on communities nationwide and steps that must be taken to combat this issue.  Drawing on his extensive experience as the former CEO of Safeguard Properties, Klein emphasized the need for vacant and abandon properties to be fast-tracked through the foreclosure process in order to prevent them from become a burden in their communities.   Klein cited that some states have already implemented laws supporting this process while several others are taking similar legislation under consideration.  Klein noted that implementing this type of law on a statewide scale supports the idea of taking a holistic approach to revitalizing America’s communities.  To support this concept, he pointed to the Slavic Village Recovery Project underway in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Klein described Slavic Village as a blue collar neighborhood, built by immigrants that once was a vibrant community.  Like many communities across the country, Slavic Village was devastated by the national housing crisis and continues to struggle in the aftermath of economic decline. After having the highest rate of foreclosure in the nation in 2007, Klein called rehabilitation efforts futile in the face of hundreds of vacant and abandoned homes.  This led Klein to develop the concept on which the current project is based on. 

Klein described the Slavic Village Recovery Project as a private for profit/non-profit partnership formed to redevelop the historic Slavic Village neighborhood by taking a holistic approach to community revitalization. The first of its kind, this strategic collaboration is a diverse alliance between Forest City Enterprises, RIK Enterprises, Slavic Village Development, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress. 

Klein’s coalition has partnered with lenders, servicers, and public entities in the area to acquire large numbers of blighted, at risk, or vacant properties concentrated in the target area of Slavic Village. The holistic approach, using both demolition and rehab, is being viewed a case study for the creation of an affordable housing model that can be replicated in communities around the Country.  The project does not use public funds but has support from the City of Cleveland, as well as local stakeholders. 

Brad Dwin, Hope Now Director of Communications offered the organization’s support of the Slavic Village Recovery Project, “Since 2007, HOPE NOW has been instrumental at facilitating partnerships between the mortgage industry, the non-profit community, federal agencies and state level partners, for the benefit of finding viable mortgage solutions for homeowners,” said Dwin.  “Over the past several months, we have noticed a real need to analyze the challenge of abandon properties and bring these same partners to the table to discuss the issue and formulate a thoughtful plan for addressing the issue. We are focused on nurturing public-private partnerships to the fullest in order to meet this goal. HOPE NOW supports all efforts that promote stable communities, and we applaud Robert Klein’s work with Slavic Village.”


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