October 28, 2015

City Liens Are an Issue in Many NYC “HOODs”


UNHP created the Home Ownership Database (HOOD) to identify and reach out to homeowners of 1-4 family homes who have fallen behind on their City liens, such as water and sewer bills, and tax liens. A recent look at the data reveals that neighborhoods as different as the Upper East Side and Jamaica Queens have much in common when it comes to delinquent City liens.

While the Jamaica/Hollis neighborhoods in Queens have more 1- 4 family homes and  lower incomes than the Upper East Side in Manhattan, both neighborhoods have an average City lien total of about $5,000. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, 36% of 1-4 family owner-occupied homes have City liens between $500 to $15,000 as compared to 62% in the Jamaica/Hollis neighborhoods of Queens.

Both the Upper East Side and Jamaica/Hollis have average City liens totals of about $5,000, although the Upper East Side has more tax delinquencies and Jamaica/Hollis has more water and sewer liens. The charts above show the percentages of owner-occupied homes by size of lien.

The Fordham/ University Heights section has the third highest foreclosure rate in New York City (43.9 per 1,000 homes). 56% of homeowners are behind in their City liens in the range of $500 to $15,000 with an average lien amount of $900. In the Fordham section of the Bronx delinquent water and sewer charges garner the largest portion of the lien amount.   Even in neighborhoods with low foreclosure rates like Throggs Neck in the Bronx (25% delinquency rate), unpaid City liens are an issue.

Fordham/University Heights has one of the highest foreclosure rates in NYC and Throggs Neck is among the lowest. Even so, 25% of the owner-occupied 1-4 family homes in Throggs Neck/Coop City are behind in City liens. Average lien amounts for both neighborhoods are the same.

UNHP is currently working to determine if City liens are a good indicator to predict future foreclosures. Reaching homeowners who are struggling prior to foreclosure may result in more effective home preservation. While homeowners can lose their home during a foreclosure for non-payment of mortgage, delinquent liens also put homeowners at financial risk. The City can sell both tax and water and sewer liens to a third party at a lien sale, which can lead to foreclosure and loss of value at resale for the homeowner. The Center for New York City Neighborhoods has been tracking tax lien sales and notes that 62% of homeowners will buy back the tax lien – after as much as $4,500 in legal charges, interest and fees have been added. This provides an incentive for community groups, like UNHP, to contact homeowners about city lien payment plans and assistance prior to sale.

UNHP uses the HOOD to send assistance letters to local homeowners who are behind in their City liens and may be at risk of foreclosure. The UNHP Northwest Bronx Resource Center offers 1:1 Foreclosure Prevention counseling twice a month by appointment with HUD-certified counselors from the Parodneck Foundation. About twice a year, UNHP contacts by mail over 800 local homeowners who were at least $500 behind in City lien payments. In 2014, the Parodneck HUD-Certified Foreclosure Prevention specialist met with 41 homeowners; 9 of whom are in trial or permanent modifications.

HUD-certified foreclosure prevention counselor, Noemi Aviles meets with a Bronx homeowner at the Northwest Bronx Resource Center. The Parodneck Foundation is one of the six non-profits that provide free financial services at the Center.

Teofilia Eucedia is a Bronx homeowner who has been working with Noemi Aviles at the Northwest Bronx Resource Center to obtain a loan modification. “We have lived in the Bronx our whole lives, but we moved to this home in 2001. I like living here. It’s peaceful. My husband and I began to receive less and less hours while at the same time remodeling our home. We started getting into debt and things got harder from there. I was scared and felt like I was losing my house, but thanks to UNHP I have my house back. Thanks to God and Noemi for their encouragement and patience. They even referred me to a personal finance class to help me in the future.”

Mrs. Eucedia has advice for homeowners who may be struggling with lien or mortgage payments – “Have Faith. Don’t bottle it up, talk about it. There are people willing to help you get through this”

UNHP and The Parodneck Foundation are among the groups willing to help Bronx homeowners. Contact us at (718) 933- 2539.