On the frontlines of the foreclosure crisis

Robert Garcia says more and more families are coming to his agency every day for help in their battle to keep their homes.

Garcia is executive director of Southwest Neighborhood Housing Services, a statewide homeowner assistance agency located in Albuquerque.

Watch the interview with Garcia

Over the past year, Garcia said he’s seen a shocking increase in the number of families signing up for foreclosure prevention counseling.

“We’ve seen a 70 to 80 percent increase in the request for those services,” Garcia said recently.

Most of the foreclosure cases involve adjustable rate loans, in which the homeowners signed up for a loan at a low “teaser” rate which was set to automatically increase later, doubling or tripling the monthly payment.

Some commentators and observers have been quick to place the blame for the foreclosure crisis on the homeowners, for getting in over their heads.

And it is true that many of the homeowners did not fully understand what was being asked of them when they signed the papers, he said.

But Garcia said the blame also lies with the banking and real estate professionals who lead the borrowers astray and offered them loans they knew were not viable.

“It’s the mortgage brokers and the developers, just looking at their bottom line. It’s just greed, with a capital G, is what that is.”

To help protect homeowners, Southwest Housing Services Inc. provides free classes in credit and budgeting and first-time homeownership.

For the homeowners who are already in trouble, Garcia’s agency will negotiate with creditor and the mortgage companies for free to help keep families in their homes.

“I want people to know that they don’t need to sell their home. They don’t need to get foreclosed on. There is help available.”

Services provided at Southwest Housing Services Inc. are free. The not-for-profit agency is located at 4605 4th NW and can be reached at 243-5511 or nhsofalb.org.

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