Spotlight: Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros to be Keynote Speaker at 13th Annual Governor’s Housing Conference, Sept. 27

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros a leading authority on expanding affordable housing opportunities for both renters and homebuyers during and after his service as President Clinton’s housing chief, will be the keynote speaker at the 13th annual Governor’s Housing Conference at the Baltimore Hilton on Friday, Sept. 27.

The theme of the conference is Building for the Future: Investing in People, Places and Communities.

Secretary Cisneros is co-chair of the Washington-based  Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission, which aims to identify and reform the housing needs of an increasingly diverse American society by crafting a package of realistic and actionable policy recommendations.

The annual Governor’s Housing Conference is the largest and most comprehensive affordable housing forum in the state, convening housing advocates, community development leaders, housing authorities, homebuilders, developers, lenders and legislators to discuss solutions and opportunities for affordable homeownership and rental housing in Maryland. DHCD hosts the conference in partnership with the Homebuilders Association of Maryland.

During the conference, DHCD will announce winners of its annual Commitment to Excellence Awards.  The annual roundtable discussion with some of the region’s top lawmakers is one of the popular conference events.

Secretary Cisneros is executive chairman of the CityView companies, which work with urban homebuilders to create homes priced within the range of average families. CityView is a partner in building more than 60 communities in 13 states, incorporating more than 7,000 homes with a home value of over $2 billion.

His community-building career began at the local level. After serving three terms as a city council member, in 1981, he became mayor of San Antonio, Texas, the first Hispanic-American mayor of a major U.S. city.

During his four terms as mayor, Secretary Cisneros helped rebuild the city’s economic base and spurred the creation of jobs through massive infrastructure and downtown improvements.  In 1984, he was interviewed by the Democratic presidential nominee as a possible candidate for vice president of the United States and in 1986 was selected as the “Outstanding Mayor” in the nation by City and State Magazine.

As a member of President Clinton’s cabinet beginning in 1992, Secretary Cisneros has been credited with initiating the revitalization of many of the nation’s public housing developments and with formulating policies which contributed to achieving the nation’s highest ever homeownership rate.

After leaving HUD in 1997, he was president and chief operating officer of Univision Communications, the Spanish-language broadcaster. He currently serves on Univision’s board of directors.

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Message from the Secretary: Empowering First-time Homebuyers

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that first-time homebuyers, a critical component of the housing market, are in danger of getting left behind in the current real estate recovery.

More and more families have the income, but not the savings to afford the downpayment for a new home, the Journal reported. Lenders have gotten more restrictive extending credit. And although low prices and low interest rates make now a great time to buy, first-time homebuyers frequently find that they are unable to compete with investors, who have the cash in-hand to snap up the best deals.

Yet, as the Journal story noted, first-time homebuyers are “the foundation of the real estate market and are major contributors to their local economies, often buying up older homes, revitalizing communities and spending money on furniture and renovations.”

This is why programs such as the Maryland Mortgage Program are critical to a broad-based and sustainable economic recovery. Our competitive interest rates and our generous downpayment assistance help make homeownership more accessible and affordable to those hardworking families who are so important to our economy.

Our goal is to make Maryland’s flagship homeownership program even better.

Under the leadership of Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown we adopted a mortgage-backed securities platform to ensure a steady flow of resources for our programs and services. We are steadily expanding our network of lenders who offer Maryland Mortgage Program products; as well as the number of employers participating in our Partner Match program. And in recent months, we launched new products to serve a broader range of families, including our Targeted Areas initiative, our Maryland Homefront Program and the 97 % Loan-to-Value Conventional Refinance Program.

In fiscal year 2012, we reserved Maryland Mortgage Program loans to 1,819 families for more than $315 million. We are surpassing that performance this year.

Our message to homebuyers is that now is a great time to buy!

Our message to lenders and realtors is that now is a great time to partner with the Maryland Mortgage Program!

Working together we can help build strong families, strong communities and a strong Maryland economy through homeownership.

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Study: Homeowners Less Likely to Default if They Get Counseling Before They Buy

Successful HomeownersA new study is confirming what intuition and common sense already suggested: homeowners who went through pre-purchase counseling were less likely to fall behind in their mortgage payments than those who didn’t.

“Pre-purchase counseling and education works,” concluded researchers who looked at more than 75,000 loans by national affiliates of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation between October 2007 and September 2009.

“The finding is consistent across years of loan origin, even as the mortgage market changed in a period of financial crisis. It applies equally to first-time homebuyers and to repeat buyers. And it holds after controlling for a large set of characteristics of borrowers and their credit histories, mortgages and housing markets.”

The Maryland Mortgage Program, the state’s flagship homeownership program, requires pre-purchase counseling on all its loan products, one of the program’s key selling points for prospective homebuyers and lenders alike.

In fiscal year 2012, 1,450 families purchased homes through the Maryland Mortgage Program, a 29 percent increase over fiscal year 2011. Learn more about why historic low interest rates, exciting new loan products and significant downpayment and settlement cost assistance makes the Maryland Mortgage Program an attractive option for more and more buyers.

The new study “Pre-Purchase Counseling Impacts on Mortgage Performance” was prepared by Neil S. Mayer and Kenneth Temkin for NeighborWorks America.

It joins a growing body of research on the efficacy of counseling, including a series by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those studies looked at the effectiveness of pre-purchase counseling and foreclosure prevention

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Refi Workshop Brings Homeowners and Lenders Together

More than 500 homeowners met face-to-face with lenders andRefi Event PG (3) 4.6 nonprofit housing counselors on April 6 to get help refinancing through the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program, which is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31.

The initiative builds upon the O’Malley administration’s ongoing effort to preserve and protect homeownership in the wake of the most severe national housing crisis since the Great Depression. Learn more about what the O’Malley administration is doing to expand opportunities and protect the quality of life for Maryland’s hardworking families.

Modeled after DHCD’s successful foreclosure prevention workshops, the Refi Workshop at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville enabled many homeowners to at least begin the application process for HARP, cutting through the barriers that prevent many eligible families from taking advantage of a program that could save them hundreds of dollars on their monthly payments.

A recent national survey found that more than 80 percent of the homeowners who were denied a refinance through HARP, did in fact qualify for the program. The survey also found that many homeowners didn’t understand the program or found it too time consuming to explore.

Those barriers prevented borrowers from taking advantage of today’s historically low interest rates. There are nearly 80,000 borrowers in Maryland that may be eligible for a HARP refinance, and DHCD is mailing information letters out to each of them.

“This is a historic opportunity for our families,” Secretary Skinner said during the April 6 workshop. “Interest rates are at an all-time low, housing prices are beginning to rise and the Home Affordable Refinance Program may be the only opportunity for homeowners who are underwater to refinance into a more stable, more sustainable mortgage. But the window is closing. HARP expires Dec. 31.”

DHCD plans to have a similar workshop for homeowners in the Baltimore region. 

Homeowners seeking more information about HARP are urged to contact their lender or:

• Making Home Affordable at or by calling 1-888-995-HOPE (4773)
• Fannie Mae at or by calling 1-800-7FANNIE
• Freddie Mac at or by calling 1-800-FREDDIE

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Cong. Cummings Plans June Foreclosure Prevention Workshop

Cummings at HomeFree USA 6.2.12When Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings worked in partnership with DHCD to host his first foreclosure prevention workshop in June 2009, the response was overwhelming. Nearly 1,000 distressed homeowners showed up to meet face-to-face with counselors, lenders and pro bono attorneys during the one-day event.

He has announced plans to host his fifth workshop at Woodlawn Senior High School on June 16.

“These workshops are significant in that we are able to bring together the lenders and the borrowers to reach solutions on the spot,” says Cong. Cummings, who has built a national reputation for his legislative and personal efforts to help homeowners find sustainable solutions to losing their home.

DHCD’s Office of Community Outreach works with local leaders and community groups in similar workshops and forums throughout the state. Visit DHCD’s MD HOPE website for a calendar of upcoming events.

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Secretary Skinner Talks About Seeking Help on WEAA Radio

wealthy-radio_imageSecretary Skinner urged homeowners facing foreclosure to seek help as early as possible by calling the Maryland HOPE Hotline Counseling Network at (877) 462-7555.

“I certainly would encourage people in financial difficulty not to go it alone in terms of working with their lender,” Secretary Skinner said during an interview with hostess Deborah Owens on WEAA-FM Wealthy Radio.  “A counseling agency can be a powerful advocate.”

Secretary Skinner said Maryland’s MD HOPE Counseling Network has helped more than 20,000 homeowners find sustainable solutions that allowed them to stay in their home. In cases where homeowners were too far behind, or they could no longer afford monthly payments, network counselors helped them find what counselors call “soft landings.” A soft landing is a solution that enables a homeowner get back onto their financial feet as rapidly as possible, although it may involve a short sale, deeds in lieu of foreclosure or a cash for keys arrangement.

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Mortgage Settlement Relief in Maryland Exceeds $1.1 Billion

Foreclosure-Counselor-Grants_imageDistressed Maryland homeowners received more than $1.1 billion in relief through the National Mortgage Settlement during the first 10 months of the program, according to a progress report by the court-appointed monitor.

More than 14,000 Maryland homeowners received assistance from March 1 through Dec. 31, including include home mortgage modifications, principal reductions, deficiency waivers, refinancing and short sale financial assistance. The settlement was the result of allegations that the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers engaged in illegal “robo-signing” of documents and other mortgage lending abuses that helped trigger the collapse of the real estate market, exceeding projections. The parties to the settlement are Ally/GMAC, Bank of America (Countrywide), Citi Bank, JPMorgan Chase (WaMu) and Wells Fargo (Wachovia).

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