County to assist outreach to families at risk of losing their homes

QUEENSBURY New help may be available later this year to Warren County families at risk of losing their home to foreclosure or tax sale, county officials said this week. The county is considering launching a partnership with Adirondack Community Housing Trust in which the agency will offer help to people whove fallen behind either in their mortgage or tax payments, so they can continue living in their homes. The Housing Trust has an existing program which primarily buys properties and situating families on them with the agency's financial assistance. Reaching out to homeowners at risk of losing their homes would be a new approach for the agency, according to Deanne Rehm, a member of the Trusts Board of Directors. Rehm, a former Bolton Supervisor, presented an overview of her agencys operations to county supervisors attending a Real Property Committee meeting Monday. Coincidentally, a half-dozen property owners had attended the meeting to make pleas to protect their homes from tax sale in October. It was after hearing the circumstances of these cases, primarily from northern Warren County, that Rehm and the supervisors proposed reaching out to homeowners at risk of losing their homes. We are going to work with the county to stop this from happening, Rehm said after hearing the homeowners tell their tales of legal and financial distress. Based on successful programs proven in Vermont, the Housing Trust is dedicated to keep homes in the Adirondack Park affordable for working families. The Trust is funded by a $1 million grant arranged primarily by state Sen. Betty Little, who was alarmed this past year by the skyrocketing property values, boosted by those purchasing vacation homes and speculators. Property values have increased dramatically over the past decade, while wages have been relatively stagnant, substantially reducing housing affordability to year-round residents, officials have concluded. The Housing Trust combats this trend by buying the land underneath the homes, which reduces the purchase price, while the occupant owns the structures on the land. When the home eventually changes hands, the homeowner receives their initial investment, the full value of any improvements to the buildings plus 25 percent of the basic appreciation in value, while the Trust keeps the property, and re-sells it to another qualifying buyer as a primary residence. County Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Monroe said he was a fan of the Trusts strategy of keeping housing affordable in perpetuity for working families. This is a great program that could help a lot of families throughout the Adirondacks, he said. County Real Property Services Director Michael Swan said hed be glad to provide the Trust with information on people falling into arrears on their taxes, as the information is public, and other enterprises routinely receive it from his office. He said the outreach would most likely begin after a homeowner is 28 months or so in arrears on taxes. Rehm said shed be active in efforts to set up a program for the Trust not only to work with the county, but area banks who who have clients at risk of mortgage default. This is an effective way to keep our Adirondack communities vital, she said.

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