Castor holds foreclosure workshop in Tampa12/08/08 Concetta DeLuco
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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, hosted a foreclosure assistance workshop at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City on Saturday. Housing experts, loan counselors and banking representatives provided panel discussions and one-on-one counseling for Tampa Bay residents.
Hundreds of Tampa Bay residents lined up early outside of the HCC Performing Arts building to wait for the doors to open. With more than 4,000 foreclosure cases filed in Hillsborough County in September and October, Castor said the workshop was organized to give residents direct access to their financial lenders.
There is a lot of help out there for families, Castor said, but it is often difficult for people to tap into those resources. For those who did not attend the workshop, Castor said the most important thing is for people to take action and seek help as soon as they learn that they are in financial trouble.
Wesley Winn has been unemployed for eight months; the company he worked for for the past 12 years went out of business. He said he hasn’t missed a payment yet, but is taking the proactive approach to prevent it. He said unemployment is frustrating and has created a struggle for him and his family.
Castor said she has been very critical of the Bush administration's response to the housing crisis and the Wall Street bailout. There is very little help offered to regular citizens, she said, and she feels that any real economic change will come after Barack Obama is sworn into office Jan. 20.
Grace Miranda is an instructor for Neighborworks, an affordable housing organization. In her seminar, she said families trying to prevent foreclosure should seek help from a housing counseling agency. However, if a home is facing foreclosure, Miranda said, it is important for the family to get out before they are evicted. There is still hope after a foreclosure, Miranda said.
In a debt management seminar, Jerry Munoz said for those people facing foreclosure, it is more important to keep paying their mortgage than their credit card bills or other unsecured debt. Having money for food, clothing, and a place to live is essential, Munoz said, and mortgage companies will be more willing to make help customers who are making an effort.
Munoz said there is no definite answer about how to fix the problem, but said he knows mortgage companies are much more willing to work with families and have been establishing different plans and options to offer their customers.
Wilford Young, has been unemployed for a while and is frustrated. After listening to Munoz's presentation, he said even though mortgage companies are extending payment plans, he still won’t be able to afford payments.
Still, for some, the workshop was more help than they expected. Vivian Warren is a volunteer with Congresswoman Castor’s office. She said she witnessed a special transaction between Bank of America and a customer, who was $11,000 behind in mortgage payments and recently unemployed. The bank lowered the monthly mortgage interest rate and extended the loan.
Housing Counseling services are available throughout the Tampa Bay area, for people facing or trying to prevent foreclosures.