In the chaotic days following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many homeowners had a difficult time figuring out what resources were available to help them rebuild their damaged homes. In order to help homeowners navigate the bureaucratic maze, GNOFHAC and the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) launched the Hurricane Relief Project in April 2006. In 2007, in response to rising foreclosure rates and abusive lending terms, GNOFHAC became a HUD-certified housing counseling agency, and the Hurricane Relief Project’s name was changed to the Homeownership Protection Project (HOP). HOP now focuses its efforts on foreclosure intervention counseling, and, working directly with homeowners in crisis, HOP has helped save hundreds of homes from being lost to foreclosure.
Homeownership is critical to many families in New Orleans. Many long-time homeowners pay less on their mortgage than they would in rent, and therefore continued homeownership is their best opportunity to stay in New Orleans. Homeownership also provides financial stability to many families though the building of equity. According to the Census Bureau, the median net worth of a homeowner in the United States is $199,600. The median net worth of renters, meanwhile, is $2,200, barely 1 percent of that amount. Homeownership also provides one of the most powerful tools to addressing the racial wealth gap – as of 2013, the median net worth of white families in the US was $134,100, while the median net worth of Black families was $11,100. It is clear that expanding access to homeownership is critical to fixing the racial wealth gap, and this is one of the many reasons that GNOFHAC continues to help homeowners fight foreclosure.
One homeowner that has received help through GNOFHAC’s Homeownership Protection Project is Ms. Eunice Sylvest. A native of New Orleans, Ms. Sylvest was ready to become a first time homebuyer in the summer of 2005. She had picked out a home in Harvey and was set to go to closing when Hurricane Katrina hit. Ms. Sylvest evacuated for the storm but was able return to New Orleans in time to complete the purchase of her home on December 28, 2005. Unfortunately, in 2012, Ms. Sylvest began experiencing severe health issues that put her out of work, causing her to fall behind on her mortgage payments. Having defaulted on her mortgage and unsure if she would be able to keep her home, Ms. Eunice contacted the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center in 2014. She met with Brad Hellman, a housing counselor, who reviewed options with her and assisted her with a loan modification application. In July of 2014, Ms. Eunice was approved for a loan modification that lowered her payments from $1449 to $897 per month. She remains current on her payments today. Without GNOFHAC’s help, Ms. Sylvest might not have been able to afford to stay in the New Orleans area. Fortunately, Ms. Sylvest contacted GNOFHAC in time to save her home, and she encourages any homeowners experiencing hardship to contact GNOFHAC for homeownership counseling services. It could be the difference between losing their home and saving it.
If you or someone you know may be facing foreclosure, call us at (504) 596-2100. Help is free and confidential.