Don’t go broke seeking foreclosure help, say housing nonprofits


Judith Camelo. Screengrab from

SAN FRANCISCO—Judith Camelo and her husband, both Filipino Americans, bought their house for $196,000 and refinanced it three times. When she had to retire to take care of her injured husband, their income fell. One day, she saw a man post a piece of paper on their door and leave.

“It was a foreclosure notice,” Camelo says. She saw a loan modification advertisement on television and went to the firm for help. She was asked to pay $975 initially and $1,402 the second time. Then she never heard from them again.

Camelo was just one of the thousands of victims of foreclosure rescue scams, a growing epidemic, according to nonprofit housing counselors. Many of the scams target minority and limited-English speaking communities.

If asked to pay, stay away

“You shouldn’t be paying for loan modification assistance,” says Leah Simon-Weisberg, legal director of Tenants Together. “If you’re asked to pay, stay away,” she added at a press briefing held by nonprofit housing assistance agencies, hosted by New America Media.

“Go to a nonprofit counseling agency for advice,” says Maeve Elise Brown, executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), “they’re given grants by donor institutions like San Francisco Foundation to help out people in housing distress.”

That’s what Camelo eventually did. She sought assistance from HERA, which helped her modify her loan and stave away foreclosure and eviction.

“I say do not trust individual attorneys who say they will help you modify your loan,” says Brown. “I’m sorry to say that some of my colleagues in the law profession cannot be trusted on this.”

Foreclosure scams

Foreclosure rescue scams show no signs of abating, and could increase given the slow reversal of the housing bust. Another 700,000 homes are in the foreclosure pipeline in the state, says Vanitha Venugopal, program director of Community Development and Investment at the San Francisco Foundation.

“One million homes were foreclosed in California during the housing bust, and blacks and Latinos have had two times the foreclosure rates of whites,” Venugopal says.

Her program is devoting $2 million in the next two years in an awareness drive to warn minorities of foreclosure rescue scams and to direct them to nonprofit housing counselors for proper help.

The San Francisco Foundation is a partner in the California Home Ownership Preservation Initiative (CHOPI), a $5.3 million statewide effort to expand the availability of foreclosure intervention services in low inclome communities worst hit by the foreclosure crisis.

The foundation also made a $4.5 million commitment over three years to 30 grantees in the Bay Area to support counseling and legal assistance to help homeowners, but also acquisition of foreclosed properties to sustain affordability.

“In two years, 14,000 people have received counseling, 1,900 homes were saved and 1,334 properties were rehabilitated, but many more people need help and the scams are getting bolder,” she cautions.

Worst hit

Minorities have been the worst hit by the housing crisis, says Kevin Stein, associate director at California Reinvestment Coalition, who blames lending institutions.

“First they were redlining minority communities by refusing to provide housing loans,” Stein says, “then they went into reverse redlining targeting minority communities with highly predatory loans, now they’re swinging back to redlining again.”

While the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights and the national mortgage settlement have mitigated some of the problems, there is lack of enforcement by the federal authorities and lack of compliance and accountability on the part of banks and other financial institutions, Stein says.

“Selling loans to non-banks complicates matters and cash buyers of foreclosed homes for investment worsens the problem,” Stein adds.

HERA’s Brown also accuses banks of refusing to release all their real estate properties on the market, creating a false sense of tightness in the ownership and rental markets. “It’s a form of market manipulation,” charges Brown, “increasing pressures to sell to investor-buyers who out-buy common homebuyers.”

Renters vulnerable

House ownership as part of the American Dream is becoming out of reach, the shortage of rental housing is also compounding the difficulties of working people, says Gloria Bruce, deputy director of the East Bay Housing Organization (EBHO).

As it is, says Cruz, an average restaurant worker must work 75 hours a week to be able to afford a $1,000 a month apartment. The federal definition of “low income” she says is a household income of $46,000 a year. “So a lot of working people are struggling.”

Simon-Weisberg agrees: “Foreclosures of rental properties are displacing tenants, creating false vacancy rates that drive up rents.” She adds that foreclosed landlords exacerbate tenants’ problems by not making repairs or not returning security deposits.

Booming technology companies do not plan for the housing of their growing staff, leaving the problem for local governments to deal with, gentrifying low-income neighborhoods, depleting available housing and driving up rents.

Simon-Weisberg also warns of the rise of “company towns” with “mega-buyers like Equity Residential in Palo Alto and Blackstone in Sacramento” buying properties in bulk, making them unavailable to common homebuyers. Tenants in such company towns, she says, virtually have no protection from their big landlords.

Options available

There are options, EBHO’s Bruce says. “There is a misconception that low-cost housing is public housing—no, there are nonprofits that build and maintain low-cost rentals, but the waiting lists are long.”

Bruce is calling for the passage and enactment of Senate Bill 391 in the state legislature to dedicate funding for low-cost housing.

The housing advocates advise homeowners, would-be homeowners and tenants to “be aware of your rights” and go to nonprofit housing advocates for reliable assistance.

This is crucial, says Cheyenne Martinez-Boyette of Mission Economic Development Agency, because homeowners who are underwater need expert guidance in navigating the “murky channels” of the foreclosure process.

And housing advocates emphasize, it’s really help that no one needs to pay an arm and a leg for.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • libraocto

    Mukhang malayo ang topic ng news na ito….

  • Ncarreonjr

    Refinancing three times is a big no no. Too much greed or no self control for the owners. It happens all the time to all races. Stupidity abounds to all kinds of people.

  • JiyoonMin

    Parang sa atin din yan kaso sa atin ang batayan ng may narating ay ang magkaroon ng sasakyan luma man o bago basta meron kahit utang imbes na bahay.


    ITONG balitang ito ay hindi na-aangkop sa Pilipinas….pang USA ang binabalita dito. WALA sa katiting ang PH sa nangyaring foreclosures sa US. Mas may pananagutan ang mga Pinoy kaysa Kano…lalo sa mga madilim.

  • Felix D. Cat

    First of all… The root of all these problems are typical Filipinos trying to “Keep up with the Joneses!” How in the heck will you Refi your home 3 times!! I know why… to cash out and get the equity on the home to buy things you dont need!! Kayabangan lang talaga!! Mercedez, BMW, Gucci, LV Bags!! Tapos bahay mo walang laman… na foreclose pa!! Yes Im Filipino.. yes I own a home.. matter of fact.. I own several homes that I rent out to my fellow Filipinos who lost their home cause of money mismanagement. So.. to the point. Money dont grow on trees in America like some Kababayans will tell you. That kababayan is really full of S#!t!! We work our butts off and provide for our families!! We dont show off!! This is typical Filipinos here in the states para lang magyabang sa pinas!!

    • Olibo

      Thank you for not being one of the show-offs. Goodluck.

  • sanjuan683

    Look akala ninyo walang mangloloko sa US, madalas sabihin ng mga Pinoy ok doon pero mahirap din ang buhay sa US.

    • Olibo

      Colonial mentality, a yes.

  • Earl Gates

    It’s happening also here in the Philippines, the worst, it’s the bank who’s doing it conniving with the real estate staff. When the real estate owner, for example Camella senses that the buyer is having difficulty paying the monthly amortization or becomes delinquent, they will offer you a bank for refinancing in guise of helping out the buyer to meet its obligation. The reality, the real estate is just putting itself in a win-win situation by overriding or avoiding the law that protects the buyer (of getting any refund), passing the ball to the bank who will also benefit once the buyer become defaulter by foreclosing the property. Either way, the real estate will get-back your property and took all your money without giving you any refund or the bank take your property plus all the money that you paid. Note that refinancing is not free for both and will try to squeeze the last drop of your blood. You, the owner will gave in to pressure to save the property ending-up can fight no more.

    • INQ_reader

      Will the swindlers in US suddenly become angels when you have proven that anomalies are also happening in the Philippines?

      I really don’t understand the value of finding faults in the Philippines when anomalies are found in the US.

  • joboni96

    kung nabubuhay ka sa utang
    yan ang mangyayari

    kaya nga yumayaman
    ang mga bangko

  • kismaytami

    Ha’ay, pati ba naman kasi pagka-utu-uto dinala sa US.

    • sanjuan683

      Bakit ano akala mo sa US puro mababait tao doon. Unggoy kapag nakita mo sa Webster Dictionary, bad, swindle, corrupt, killer, snatcher, hire killer and drug addict sigurado mayroon sa US. hahahahahahahahahahangal

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos