Foreclosure workshop held in Tampa

07/14/08 Emily Reddy
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Foreclosures in Florida nearly doubled between June of last year and June of this year. One in every 211 Florida properties received a foreclosure filing last month. On Saturday, 600 Tampa Bay area residents flooded a foreclosure assistance workshop organized by U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor. The workshop brought together representatives from nine banks and 10 nonprofits to work directly with attendees on their mortgage issues.

Candi Lee schedules an appointment with Catholic Charities to see if they can help her find a way out of her foreclosure. She’s more than 12 months behind on her mortgage and the bank says her house will be sold if she doesn’t come up with all the missed payments.

Some of the attendees, like Lee, are well into the foreclosure process. Others haven’t missed a payment yet. But they all have one thing in common, they’re trying to find out what they can do to hold onto their homes.

This is the first time a member of Congress has held an event like this in the Tampa Bay area. Bank officials came from across the U.S. at the request of U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

"We have representatives from around the country that have come here today that actually have the authority to do the loan workouts. Rather than get caught in the bureaucracy and red tape of the telephone system at your bank, we thought it would be much more productive to sit them down with someone who has the authority to work out the loan," Castor said.

Many of the workshop attendees said it was hard to get any information from their banks on the phone. The customer service representatives they reach simply tell them what they owe. Maria Abru says she finds it especially hard to find someone to talk with who speaks Spanish. And when she does, they still can’t do anything for her.

Abru spoke with her bank and they offered to lower her mortgage rate, but the monthly payments wouldn’t come down; in fact, they would increase because of the missed months. That doesn’t help Abru. Her trouble first started when her husband got sick because of his diabetes. He missed two months of work and there were medical bills to pay. Also, the price of gas is up so much that he just doesn’t make as much as he used to driving his big-rig. She hopes to find some other solution at a meeting she set up Saturday with the Tampa Bay Community Development Corp.

One of the themes of the day was to get help as early as possible when mortgage problems come up.

Castor says she plans to hold more of these workshops in the future. The next one is tentatively scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg.

Contact information for foreclosure help in the Tampa Bay area:

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor: (813) 871-2817 Catholic Charities Diocese of St. Petersburg: (727)893-1314 Tampa Bay Community Development Corp.: (727) 446-6222 or Tampa Bay CDC Bay Area Legal Services: (813) 232-1343 Ext. 122 Center for Affordable Housing at the Tampa Housing Authority: (813) 253-0551 Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Florida Gulf Coast: (800) 741-7040 Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa: (813) 248-9738 Housing and Education Alliance: (813) 261-5151 Acorn Housing: (813) 870-3901

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