Conciliation Project Announced In Louisville

ille, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., together with Jefferson County Circuit Court judges, have launched the Foreclosure Conciliation Project, a program that uses the power of the courts to encourage lenders and homeowners to explore foreclosure alternatives. The project offers homeowners an opportunity to meet with their lenders before any foreclosure sale occurs. Homeowners who follow the program's steps and meet with their lenders will learn about options such as forbearance agreements and loan modifications. While participation in the program will not slow the foreclosure process, local judges have agreed not to sell the homes until the conference between homeowner and lender occurs. "The foreclosure process can be bewildering," says Abramson. "Having a clear plan to follow will make this process less traumatic and more educational for the homeowners." The project takes a cue from Philadelphia's conciliation program. The Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk's office will include information about the project in documents it sends to borrowers who are facing foreclosure. Once homeowners receive the foreclosure complaint, staff members from the community organization Making Connections Network and volunteers from AmeriCorps will personally visit homeowners and encourage participation. "Our staff and community volunteers will show up at the front door and knock to make sure homeowners understand this important information," says Dana Jackson, executive director of Making Connections Network. "Homeowners in foreclosure are the target of a lot of scams. We need them to know that the Foreclosure Conciliation Project is a legitimate offer to explore alternatives to foreclosure and to work with a HUD-certified housing counselor." The program is structured so that it causes no delay in the ordinary foreclosure process, and borrowers will have to file a reply to the foreclosure complaint within 20 days of receiving it. Borrowers who enroll in the program will be able to attend clinics to learn about the foreclosure process and foreclosure alternatives, complete a financial packet with the help of a housing counselor and present that packet to the lender piror to a conciliation conference. Pro bono attorneys will be available to assist homeowners at the conciliation conferences. If a homeowner completes the required steps on time and requests a conciliation conference, the court will not sell a home until the conciliation conference occurs. "No one wins when a house is sold in foreclosure," says Jeremy Rettig, an attorney with Lerner, Sampson & Rothfuss and a member of the Foreclosure Conciliation Working Group. "The goal of the Foreclosure Conciliation Project is to help lenders and homeowners negotiate win-win arrangements efficiently." Last year, 3,264 foreclosures were filed in Jefferson County, with 2,048 of those homes sold at a foreclosure sale. Foreclosures occupy 40% of the Jefferson County Circuit Court's entire civil caseload. If this rate continues, filings will approach 5,000 by the end of this year, the court says. "If we can use our resources to encourage communication, offer alternatives and prevent significant losses to families and neighborhoods, then we as a community have a responsibility to do that," adds Chief Judge Jim Shake. SOURCE: Office of Mayor Jerry A


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