Monday, April 15, 2013

As NY foreclosures soar, DC blocks probe

Foreclosures are rising dramatically in New York City — even as federal regulators are waging a fight to protect big banks from regulatory scrutiny of illegal foreclosure activity.
Nationwide, foreclosure filings dropped 23 percent in March compared with the year-ago period.
In New York City, by contrast, filings vaulted by 150 percent, which is the biggest percentage increase in 12 months, according to the foreclosure-information firm RealtyTrac.
“The trend is not only continuing but accelerating,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.
Manhattan remains largely immune to foreclosure pain, but Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island are taking it on the chin.
Foreclosures have been rising for six months straight in Brooklyn and 11 months in a row in Queens. Staten Island continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the state, with 1 out of every 350 housing units in foreclosure.
Legal-services attorneys say more middle-class New Yorkers are facing foreclosure. Squeezed by high housing costs and low wages, families cannot save to weather a job loss or medical crisis.
New York’s foreclosure uptick comes amid news last week that the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency refused a congressional request to turn over documents that were related to illegal foreclosures by mortgage servicers.
The excuse that was offered by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry is that these documents come under the category of trade secrets.
“It is incomprehensible that federal regulators would claim that illegal bank actions — which they uncovered — are corporate trade secrets that must be withheld from Congress,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Post.
Despite this setback, Cummings and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are pressing ahead with their requests, which were begun in January after the OCC abruptly shut down its review of the national foreclosure settlement.
Congress has the power to subpoena the Fed and OCC for the documents.
At a Senate hearing last Thursday, Warren said, “People want to know that their regulators are watching out for the American public, not for the banks.”

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