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Massachusetts Attorney General Establishes HomeCorps Program
By Thomas P. Quinn, Jr.

Massachusetts was one of 49 states to join in the $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement announced earlier this year. Among the Commonwealth’s share of the settlement was a $44.5 million payment that Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office has tapped to develop the “HomeCorps Program.” The goal of HomeCorps is to provide a variety of mitigation and relief services to Massachusetts homeowners in financial distress.

Launched in April, HomeCorps will deliver three distinct types of relief services directly to borrowers in financial distress:

  • Loan Modification Initiative: HomeCorps is staffed with approximately 20 Loan Modification Specialists (spread across four locations in the Commonwealth – Boston, New Bedford, Springfield and Worcester) trained to provide direct advocacy and assistance to borrowers in financial distress in attempting to secure a loan modification from any bank.
  • Borrower Representation Initiative: In addition to providing direct advocacy for borrowers seeking a modification of their existing loan, HomeCorps also is facilitating direct legal representation for distressed borrowers. This will be coordinated through funding grants to legal aid offices throughout the Commonwealth that will provide services to such borrowers, free-of-charge. The goal will be to assist borrowers in obtaining loan modifications, blocking unlawful foreclosures or assisting borrowers in pursuing private claims.
  • Borrower Recovery Initiative: For those borrowers who have lost their home to foreclosure, HomeCorps will provide a support and recovery network to stabilize a borrower’s housing situation and prevent homelessness. This portion of the program will be administered through select nonprofit organizations that will connect families with rental properties and other benefits and programs that may be available to them. Financial counseling also will be made available to these borrowers.

Coupled with these direct-advocacy programs, HomeCorps also is establishing two more broadly focused partnership grants. The first is the Municipal and Community Restoration Grant, which is aimed at the revitalization of neighborhoods hit hard by the recent wave of foreclosures. Grants will be awarded in three ranges, depending on the scope of the proposed initiative (local to statewide). Among the types of programs that will be considered for a grant award are those that generally seek to transfer vacant properties back to utility and/or properly maintain them, provide legal or professional services to facilitate receiverships or redevelopment programs and programs seeking to maximize existing federal and state programs to mitigate the foreclosure crisis.[1]

The second partnership grant under HomeCorps is the Crisis Innovation Grant. Like the Municipal and Community Restoration Grant, it will be awarded in three tiers based on the scope of the proposed program. This grant closely meshes with and complements several of the borrower-centric services under the HomeCorps program. Among the types of programs that will be considered for this grant are:

  • Programs providing outreach to financially-distressed borrowers in specific communities or geographic regions aimed at connecting these individuals with advocacy services;
  • Programs offering alternatives to foreclosure (such as short sales or property purchases by non-profit organizations);
  • Programs providing borrower services complementary to those under the HomeCorps including housing counseling, legal services, financial education and recovery services for those individuals that have been displaced by foreclosure;
  • Programs aimed at addressing foreclosure crisis mitigation and homelessness prevention among certain populations (such as families, seniors or veterans); and
  • Programs developing academic and technical analysis of the financial crisis and its causes, or that offer suggestions for preventing a relapse. Any such findings will be publicly available.

While the application period for the first Municipal and Community Restoration Grant has closed, the application period for the Crisis Innovation Grant has been extended to July 17, 2012.

Mortgage lenders and servicers should be aware of the panoply of services that the Attorney General has made available under the HomeCorps Program, and the role that the Attorney General’s Office is playing in each. Further information regarding the program may be found at www.mass.gov/ago/homecorps.

Thomas P. Quinn is a partner in the Massachusetts office of Hudson Cook, LLP. Tom can be reached at 774-365-4758 or by email at tquinn@hudco.com.

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[1]Massachusetts also has a legal mechanism, predating the foreclosure crisis, intended to address the economic and safety impact that abandoned homes have on communities. Under the Commonwealth’s sanitary code, a receiver may be appointed to see to the correction of any violations of the sanitary code and to return the property to a “safe and healthful condition.” Receivers are empowered to borrow funds to achieve such goals, and are granted a “super lien” superior to all liens other than municipal liens. See: 111 M.G.L.A. §§ 127I, et seq.

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