Like many homeowners across the country and county, the worsening economy had taken a toll on White Plains homeowners Jorge and Marina Schiefer. The couple purchased their home in 2006. Repairs for flood damage in 2007 exhausted a lot of their savings. Business slowed down for Jorge. The couple’s original adjustable rate mortgage was fixed for 2 years. Then, in 2008, the interest rate was reset from 7.95% to 9.25%, increasing their monthly mortgage payments from $3,605 to $3,944. Thereafter the rate would re-adjust every 6 months until the rate capped at 11.95%. The Schiefer’s lender denied their call for assistance.

But, thanks to a Westchester County government program with Westchester Residential Opportunities (WRO),  a HUD-certified Housing Counseling agency located in downtown White Plains, this sad story has a happy ending.

WRO’s ability to intercede with the banks holding the mortgages is due to proactive measures by county government that called on banks to be open to modifying loans for homeowners and a $150,000 county contract with WRO to counsel and intercede on behalf of Westchester residents, like the Schieffer’s, at risk of losing their homes.  The WRO funding proposal was advanced by Ryan with Legislators Jenkins, Lois Bronz, Peter Harckham and Lyndon Williams.

Three months behind on their mortgage, the Schiefers went to WRO for help. The agency went to bat for the Schieffer’s. They resubmitted another request for a loan modification which was successful. The lender added 6 months arrears to the back of the loan and offered the client a “step fixed rate.”  The rate on the first year was reduced from 9.25% to 5%. The second year will be at 5.5 percent; the third year at 6 percent. After that, until the end of the 30-year-term, the rate will be fixed at 7 percent.

“The Schiefer’s problem provides a perfect example of how this targeted county investment in foreclosure prevention can work,” said Ryan. “Helping these responsible homeowners through a rough time so they can stay in their homes demonstrates the effectiveness of the county partnering with non-profit agencies like WRO that have the expertise and tools to turn a problem around quickly and successfully.”

Ryan said that about 250 Westchester homeowners have avoided foreclosure due to Westchester County government’s targeted investment in foreclosure counseling services in partnership with Westchester Residential Opportunities and other non-profit partners.