In response to the spike of homeowners losing their property and equity, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblymember Tremaine Wright will be holding a joint hearing on Friday, March 15, to examine the city's homeownership housing crisis.
The hearing, which will take place from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at Brooklyn Borough Hall, will focus on wrongful property seizures and the practices that have put homeowners and families in jeopardy, including deed and equity theft, municipal liens, predatory foreclosures, redlining, reverse mortgages and the city's controversial Third Party Transfer program.
"We must vigilantly and comprehensively tackle the growing emergency facing Black and Latino property owners in our city, who appear to be systematically targeted by efforts to wrongful seize homes and put families at an economic disadvantage," said Adams. "Government is playing catch-up to the fraudulent schemes of bad actors who want to gentrify neighborhoods, and it's time to get back on offense."
Under the TPT program, the city forecloses on distressed, neglected properties and transfers them to nonprofit developers to fix them and to improve the living conditions for the properties' tenants. The program, however, came under scrutiny last year after reports had emerged that the properties of more than 60 black and brown homeowners in less affluent neighborhoods had been placed in TPT, often without properly notifying them.
Like Crown Heights homeowner Marlene Saunders, who was not aware of her property being placed into TPT until she received a letter from a nonprofit developer requesting rent. As she discovered, the foreclosure proceeding was triggered by a mix-up with old bills, Saunders explained, an issue that has since been rectified. Fortunately for her and her family, the process has been reversed. Why their house was placed into the program, is still a mystery to her.
"Predatory schemes and misguided policy have systematically destabilized the community of homeowners in Brooklyn," said Assembly Member Wright. "We must address this crisis immediately."
Last October, Montgomery and Wright requested a moratorium on the TPT Program until an investigation was conducted to determine if the most recent foreclosure proceedings were in line with the program's original intent. A month later, Adams and Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. joined their call for a full-scale forensic audit and investigation on the federal, state and city levels into the issue of deed fraud in Brooklyn, and the role that the TPT program may be unintentionally playing in defrauding homeowners of their property.
"The increasing lack of affordability is hitting homeowners of color especially hard and they often do not know who to turn to," said Montgomery. "At the same time, we are fighting just to maintain resources to battle foreclosure. This fact-finding hearing will allow us to learn more about ways in which homeowners are in constant danger of losing their homes beyond missing a mortgage payment, and how we can work towards solutions."
The lawmakers encourage impacted homeowners to join the hearing and to share their experiences with wrongful property seizures and foreclosures, and issues such as municipal liens, redlining and reverse mortgages.