Despite the foreclosure crisis, home ownership should never be a seen as a lost cause, panelists at Tuesday-night forum said.
At a panel discussion in Dwight Chapel, three local experts discussed the national sub-prime mortgage crisis and its effect on low- and moderate-income New Haven residents. The Urban Fellows, a social justice organization that works to involve Yalies with New Haven government and nonprofit organizations, hosted the event, which drew about 20 students. In New Haven, lis pendes filings, the first step in foreclosures, have risen by more than 63 percent since 2005, but the panelists stressed that local organizations have utilized a plethora of methods to reduce the consequences of the crisis for local homeowners.
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The panelists included Real Options Overcoming Foreclosure (ROOF) Program Manager Eva Heintzelman SOM ’08, Neighborhood Housing Services Executive Director Jim Paley and Neighborworks New Horizons Executive Director Selia Mosquera. All three organizations work to counsel potential home owners and also buy foreclosed properties and refurbish them to sell to low- or moderate-income families.
After focusing on the basics of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the panelists related the current economic downturn to New Haven and elaborated on their individual efforts to increase home ownership and to teach responsible mortgage policies. Paley reiterated that entire communities can be devastated by the mortgage crisis; some of the burdens facing low-income families include rising property taxes in New Haven and rising energy costs, he said.
“I’ve spent years of my life doing this work, but no matter how hard we try, the fact is that people with limited income have very little margin for unexpected expenses,” Paley said. “This lack of flexibility jeopardizes the family’s ability to pay the mortgage.”
Another panelist, Mosquera, showcased her organization’s, which provides quality affordable housing to working families in New Haven, work in the Fair Haven community of New Haven. She said in Fair Haven there is only a 25 percent home-ownership rate.
“On Ferry Street, we cleaned out an entire neighborhood, and now there is multi-family housing, a community center — kids can even ride their bikes in a neighborhood that was once crime infested,” Mosquera said.
An audience member asked both Paley and Mosquera what will happen to people in New Haven once their houses succumb to foreclosure. Mosquera said she had noticed an increase in the number of people renting homes or apartments. Paley said he is still a strong believer in home ownership.
“At Neighborhood Housing Services, we believe that home ownership is an important component to neighborhood stability,” Paley said. “Members of a neighborhood have a tendency to look out for the neighborhood and to maintain their property.”
Although the coordinator of the Urban Fellows, Adler Prioly ’09, said he had been hoping for more of a turnout, many of those in attendance said they enjoyed the talk.
Cris Shirley ’10 said he came because Dwight Hall has a history of putting on good events.
“I was already interested in the issue, but I feel like I got a better grasp on the sub-prime mortgage crisis,” Shirley said.
Some Yale anthropology and American studies graduate students described the panelists as articulate about the difficult issues.
“It was great to see the crisis discussed on a macro level but focused on local issues,” Ruthie Yow GRD ’13 said.
The Urban Fellows program is funded by the Yale University Office of New Haven and State Affairs. This was the first panel discussion hosted by the Urban Fellows this year.