At the same time HousingWorks RI has released a report showing decreases in the amount of foreclosures both statewide and in Warwick, a local man has been honored for his work helping homeowners facing hard times.
Daniel Burnham, a counselor at Money Management International, is the recipient of the 2012 Homeownership Preservation Foundation’s (HPF) Counselor of the Year award.
The Homeownership Preservation Foundation is a national non-profit aiming to guide consumers to financial health and sustainable homeownership.
Burnham has been working as a counselor at Money Management International, one of seven HPF counseling partners, since 2010. Each of the seven partners nominates a counselor for the award each year.
According to a press release from HPF, Burnham was recognized for his high standard of counseling, ability to guide homeowners through budgeting and loss mitigation processes, and his strong role and peer-mentoring abilities.
“It is a great honor,” said Burnham of his award. “There are a lot of dedicated people in this industry.”
Burnham says the best part of his job is having the opportunity to help people save their homes. Most callers, according to Burnham, are facing foreclosure due to economic issues, although personal and family issues are common as well.
When someone calls Burnham for help, he says he usually directs them to national programs such as Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) for support. Although Burnham is stationed in Rhode Island, he receives calls from homeowners across the country.
Although Burnham says the stream of callers has been “pretty steady” over his three years as a counselor, HousingWorks RI released their Quarter 1 report on Foreclosures in RI recently, which shows a decrease of 26.5 percent in residential foreclosure deeds filed in the state.
Specifically in Warwick, the total number of foreclosures in the first quarter of the year is 50, down 10.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2012. The city ranked 10th in the state with 0.26 percent of mortgaged housing stock being foreclosed in the first quarter.
“We’ve seen foreclosures declining since the height in 2009,” said Jessica Cigna, research and policy associate for HousingWorks RI. Cigna said counseling programs such as the one Burnham works that provides support and guidance for distressed homeowners can be a contributing factor.
Ken Mallette, city tax assessor and collector, called the foreclosure numbers released by HousingWorks as more “realistic” than prior reports.
“The numbers are reflective of what we see here,” Mallette said. According to the report, Warwick housing foreclosures totaled 1,065 from 2009 to the first quarter of this year. A report more than a year ago put foreclosures at about 700 for a single year, which Mallette said were off the charts from city records.
He said foreclosures shown for the first quarter and the less than half a percent are “reasonable.”
Although the report states that foreclosure numbers are at their lowest point statewide since 2009, Cigna says there are still many homeowners struggling with unemployment or “underwater” mortgages.
“Underwater” means a homeowner has negative equity. According to HousingWorks, 23.4 percent of homeowners in Rhode Island face this problem.
“It is a good news story,” said Cigna of an overall reduction in foreclosures statewide. “But we know homeowners are underwater.”
HPF’s HOPE Hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has provided counseling to almost 7 million homeowners since 2007, roughly 4,500 each weekday.
Burnham says he talks to a variety of individuals facing every stage of the foreclosure process.
“It runs the gamut,” said Burnham. “Some people are at their wit’s end.”
The best advice Burnham can give to those facing a potential foreclosure is to “be proactive.”
“Make sure your budget is balanced,” said Burnham. “And at the first sign of trouble, call us or your mortgage company.”
Burnham says some mortgage companies have programs to support homeowners in danger of foreclosure.
Cigna and the team at HousingWorks advocate for affordable housing across the state to help those struggling with housing.
“We’re encouraged by the decline in number of residential foreclosure deeds filed in Rhode Island last quarter, but the state continues to see the lasting effects of these foreclosures on our housing market,” Cigna said in a press release. “Policymakers must recognize the importance of housing to our state’s economy and develop strategies that will ensure housing affordability over the long-term. This will reduce our state’s vulnerability to these losses in the future.”
Although her organization encourages policy makers to find ways to increase affordable housing across the state, Cigna could not say that an increase in that form of housing would lead to further decreases in foreclosures.