Dealing with a scam, deed theft, or foreclosure? NY’s Homeowner Protection Program can help
- A network of 89 nonprofits across New York state can help you avoid foreclosure and stick to a budget
- Homeowner Protection Program nonprofits serve more than 15,000 households across New York every year
- The program is critical to owners of color who bear the legacy of redlining and predatory lending
Maybe you’re facing foreclosure. Maybe a stranger is knocking on your door with a loan that seems too good to be true. Maybe you’re just having trouble keeping up with your real estate taxes. In any case, the state’s Homeowner Protection Program might be able to help.
Dubbed HOPP for short, the more than a decade-old program funds a network of 89 nonprofits across New York state that help owners stay out of foreclosure, avoid scams, and manage their mortgage payments or monthly bills at their condo and co-op buildings. And yes, it’s completely free for New Yorkers.
HOPP’s nonprofits advise more than 15,000 families per year state-wide, and in New York City, more than 75 percent of the owners HOPP nonprofits serve are minorities, according to Legal Services NYC, one of the organizations that receives HOPP funding.
The program has been critical to owners of color, who often face higher delinquency rates, due to historic discrimination, including redlining and predatory lending in the years leading up to the Great Recession, says Jacob Inwald, the director of litigation for economic justice at Legal Services NYC.
“It’s a pretty staggering disparity,” Inwald says. “A combination of factors that lands us in a place where communities of color are almost always going to be experiencing foreclosures much more drastically than the population at large,” Inwald says.
How New Yorkers lose their property
New Yorkers seek out HOPP’s network because they are in danger of losing their condos, co-ops, or homes. Older New Yorkers can struggle to pay their property taxes, without realizing that they could be eligible for a tax break. Owners often face foreclosure because they’ve fallen behind on their mortgage payments or property taxes.
And in a more insidious example, a New Yorker may be at risk of losing their property thanks to a deed theft scam.
Perpetrators of deed theft—when a con artist steals a property from its owner—often target older New Yorkers, minorities, those in financial trouble, and those in gentrifying neighborhoods. The NYC Sheriff’s Office received 3,500 complaints of deed theft from 2013 to 2023, 1,500 of which were in Brooklyn.
“There are all kinds of speculators, private equity, and other investors who are looking to get a hold of properties in gentrifying neighborhoods on the cheap,” Inwald says. “You combine that with people who are at risk of foreclosure, and you have people knocking on people's doors and selling them scam transactions, where the homeowner, unknowingly, signs away the deed to a speculator who then tries to evict them in housing court.”
How can HOPP Help?
HOPP’s nonprofit network offers case-by-case assistance for New Yorkers at risk of losing their property. Sometimes, that’s just some friendly budgeting advice, says Kevin Wolfe, deputy director for advocacy and public affairs at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, one of the partners that helps administer HOPP throughout New York state.
“You frequently have homeowners who have income, but also lots of expenses and debt, and so counseling directly to those homeowners on budgeting and managing expenses may be the type of intervention that they need,” Wolfe says.
But other times, HOPP-funded nonprofits help homeowners battle foreclosure cases in court.
Lenders in New York state have to sue you before they can foreclose on your home. But if you fail to respond to the lawsuit, you’ve defaulted on your loan, and a judge can rule against you and schedule the sale of your property.
“It really is just like a rubber stamp: file the papers, get a default judgment, and the next thing you know, they've got title to the house and they're scheduling an auction,” Inwald says.
HOPP nonprofits like Legal Services NYC help homeowners respond to that lawsuit so that they can avoid a foreclosure sale.
“Almost any homeowner who reaches out and gets connected with a HOPP-funded legal services agency will get help to answer the complaint in the foreclosure case, which is crucial because before the HOPP network was out there, virtually all foreclosure cases proceeded on default,” Inwald says.
How do I get in touch?
CNYCN operates a hotline across the state open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. You can reach them at 855-466-3456. New York City residents can also call 311 and ask for the Homeowner Help Desk, a city CNYCN program that assists residents in Central Brooklyn, Southeastern Queens, and the North Bronx.
You can also visit the consumer facing website for HOPP, Homeowner Help NY.
What is the origin of HOPP and how is it funded?
HOPP was founded in 2012 to stop foreclosures. It first was funded through settlement money from some of the nation’s biggest banks, who signed off on foreclosure-related documents without knowing if they were correct, resulting in more foreclosures and higher interest rates for borrowers.
In more recent years, HOPP has been funded through the state budget. But Governor Kathy Hochul left funding for HOPP out of her executive budget this year, leading Legal Services NYC and CNYCN to head up to Albany to advocate for the program. (A representative for the governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment).
It’s a familiar story: Hochul initially left HOPP out of the budget in 2023 as well, but the program eventually scored the $40 million it needed to keep up and running, City Limits reported. CNYCN hopes to score that same budget this year, Wolfe says. Otherwise, HOPP’s contracts will expire on July 15th of this year, according to Legal Services NYC.
“I do have a lot of confidence that the legislature is going to do everything in their power to restore the funding as they've done in years past,” Inwald says. “They have been extremely strong in their support of this program because they know that their constituents need this program. But can never predict where budgets are going to land.”
If HOPP did run out of money, the state could see higher foreclosure rates and a backed-up court system, Inwald says.
“If you take away those housing counseling services, you're going to see all of these cases ripening into foreclosure cases in court. It would be pretty catastrophic to take these services away,” Inwald says.
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