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Lisa Loving of The Skanner
Published: 06 August 2008

While the wave of home mortgage defaults has not deluged the Pacific Northwest, many experts say it will – soon.
In the meantime, the Seattle Urban League is hosting a series of free events designed to keep homeowners in their homes by educating mortgage holders before they face a financial crisis.
First, the organization is holding two counseling-based sessions to help mortgage holders learn about their financial obligations and document any potential difficulties that may arise in the future over their home debt.
Then, in October, a bigger event is planned featuring representatives from many home mortgage lenders who will meet with their clients to work out their financial problems and conflicts on the spot.
"The majority of people who call us don't know what type of mortgage they have," said Linda Taylor, Seattle Urban League Housing Director. "They should know what type of mortgage they have and the fact that there are options if they're falling behind or can't keep up with their mortgage."
The events are Saturday, Aug. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the NW African American Museum, 2300 S. Massachusetts St.; Sunday, Sept. 28, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Kent Senior Center, 600 East Smith St., in Kent; and Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the WaMu Cedarbrook Leadership Center, 18525 36th Ave. S. near SeaTac.
"If you've been a victim of fraud, we'll have people there from the Attorney General's office to take some of those complaints and help you facilitate a remedy," Taylor said.
Experts will talk about changes to the mortgage lending laws, reverse mortgages, different mortgage options and how to recognize foreclosure rescue scams. Information also will be provided on the City of Seattle's mortgage relief funds of up to $5,000 per household.
Taylor said legal help will be on hand, in addition to federal housing agency representatives available to hear testimony.
The two first scheduled event build up to the third, Taylor said. The October session is key for any homeowner with lender problems.
"The main goal of that third session is we will have loan servicers there – we will actually have a lot of your home mortgage companies there – to help you work out any issues or problems you have with your home financing," Taylor said.
 "There is so much paperwork involved that you need to set it up right and know what your rights are — you really need to know your rights because a lot of the lenders don't."
The events are designed for people who don't know where to turn for help – particularly homeowners struggling with a sub-prime loan, or an interest-only loan, or an Adjusted Rate Mortgage loan that's scheduled for a price jump soon.
Elliott Bronstein of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights says that, because Seattle has not been hot as severely as some other parts of the country, this is the time to educate homeowners – before they face eviction and default.
"Its really important that homeowners take advantage of workshops like this to assess their own situation, especially people who feel like they might be suffering some exposure on their own mortgage situation, this is a really good opportunity to talk with professionals you can trust who have no agenda beyond the financial security of Seattle residents."
"We view this in the broadest sense as a civil rights issue, as a human rights issue – financial security is important," Bronstein said. "It can also touch on our role as a housing agency, because the people who are most targeted for predatory lending and shoddy products are people of color, the elderly and disabled – people who are cash poor and equity-rich."
"That is potentially against the law and it's something we can look at as a federal housing agency."
Childcare is available for each session, and meals will be served. To sign up, or find out more, call 1-800-368-1455, or email ulmshousing@urbanleague.org.

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