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Center opens to help struggling families

February 12, 2009 1:21:08 PM PST
In neighborhoods across the country, signs of the housing market slump are obvious. Nearly 77,000 California homes are in foreclosure. But help is now available for people who have a mortgage through Chase, Washington Mutual, or EMC. It is not a one-size fits all solution, said Cynthia Thompson from Chase Bank. We're looking at it very customized, and tailoring on a case-by-case basis.

Chase is opening four home ownership centers in Southern California, where people can talk directly to an advisor. With so many people losing their jobs, paying their mortgage is a struggle, if not an impossibility. But Chase says those homeowners do have options.

We have the ability to offer a special forbearance plan, where they're not making payments for approximately 90 days, Thompson said. That takes an immediate burden off of that consumer, so that they don't have to have that as their primary concern.

According to RealtyTrac, the number of homes in foreclosure improved last month compared to December because of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac moratorium on foreclosure sales.

But the scope of the downturn is still unprecedented.

One in 76 homes in Riverside County is in foreclosure. In San Bernardino County, one in 87 homes is foreclosed. In Ventura County, one in 195 homes is in default. L.A. County fairs slightly better with a rate of one in 249 homes in foreclosure. And in Orange County, one in 254 homes faces foreclosure.

L.A. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel says the city, nonprofit groups, and the banks need to work together to keep people in their homes.

We know that sometimes when you answer the phone and someone's calling about the fact that you have paid, people don't want to answer the phone, Greuel said.

When they do want to address their issue, they don't want to just talk to someone over the phone who may live in another state. They want to talk to someone who lives here and understands their problems and concerns. And these centers, for those customers, are going to be a great way that they can begin to work it out.


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