CIT Bank and its retail subsidiary, OneWest Bank, awarded a $335,000 grant to fund counseling for seniors in danger of tax-and-insurance reverse mortgage foreclosures in California.
The money will help a pair of organizations — the Atlanta-based ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions and the Hope Now Alliance of Washington, D.C. — host events throughout the state of California over the coming year, at which seniors currently or potentially facing tax-and-insurance defaults can receive free advice from counselors about how to remain in their homes.
Misty Martin, ClearPoint’s operations manager, told Reverse Mortgage Daily that her group scheduled the events in areas with high concentrations of homeowners with HECMs, including the Orange County city of Garden Grove and Compton in Los Angeles County. ClearPoint’s events are intended specifically for seniors may be facing both short-term or long-term tax and insurance defaults, Martin said, and the advice differs for each type.
While Martin said ClearPoint advises all borrowers to stay in close contact with their servicers, borrowers with more temporary financial problems — for instance, those caused by an unexpected short-term medical hardship — can usually work with their HECM servicer to establish a payment plan. Those who have more entrenched financial problems and can no longer afford to remain in their homes may need to explore a short sale or a deed in lieu of a foreclosure, as well as the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, which provides forgivable loans to California homeowners with past-due taxes and insurance. Either way, Martin said her organization welcomed the opportunity to work with Southern California seniors who may need assistance.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of us to be able to get together and be involved, and help as many seniors as possible stay in their homes,” Martin said.
The Pasadena, Calif.-based OneWest formerly originated Home Equity Conversion Mortgages through its Financial Freedom arm, which ceased origination efforts in 2011 but continues to service HECM loans and remains a player in the HECM-backed securities market. The company faced renewed media scrutiny after the November 2016 nomination and February confirmation of its former chairman, Steven Mnuchin, as Secretary of the Treasury under President Trump. As RMD reported last month, various news outlets and politicians seized on OneWest’s 16,200 HECM-related foreclosures between 2009 and 2014, though many in the reverse mortgage industry pointed out that this number likely consisted primarily of foreclosure transactions triggered by the death of the last surviving borrower — and did not result in the eviction of elderly borrowers.
Requests for comment from CIT and OneWest were not returned as of press time.
Written by Alex Spanko