Thousands show up in LA for free mortgage help

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By JACOB ADELMAN
The Associated Press
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 4:21 PM

LOS ANGELES -- Armed with folding chairs, coolers and jugs of water, thousands of people who want to avoid losing their homes lined up around the Los Angeles Convention Center on Thursday seeking help with mortgages they can no longer afford.

The nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which is offering homeowners the chance to restructure their loans at lower rates, said about 5,000 people were in line when the doors opened at 8:30 a.m.

Thousands more were expected over the next five days, during which counselors will be helping people at risk of foreclosure around the clock.

Bruce Marks, chief executive of NACA, said at similar events around the country, one-third of the applicants have reduced their mortgage rates on the spot.

About 80 percent have reduced their payments within 30 days, Marks said. The reductions typically come through agreements NACA has with lenders to reduce interest, cut the amount owed, and in some cases extend the life of the loans.

Among those waiting in line was Irene Ybanez, 44, a secretary who was looking for help with mortgage payments on a loan that she refinanced in 2007 after her husband lost his job in the real estate business. They refinanced their La Puente home so they'd have money for him to start an architecture business in his native Philippines, but the business failed and now the couple is unable to pay their mortgage.

Ybanez said she had come close to agreeing to a modification deal with her lender, Citibank, but her loan was sold to a third party and the arrangement was canceled.

"It's horrible. It's disgusting, really. It's not that you're begging for anything. You're just trying to make your home payments," she said, choking back tears.

Michael Mendez, 56, a carpenter from El Monte, was coming back to the foreclosure event for the second time in as many years.

After last year's event, he was put in a trial modification that brought his mortgage rate down to 2 percent, which he could afford to pay. But the trial period, which was supposed to last a few months, has never ended and he's looking for a permanent rate that he can afford.

As part of the trial, Mendez is constantly badgered every month for pay stubs and other documentation.

He said he worries he may not end up with a monthly payment he can afford.

"It's stressful, very stressful. You can get physically ill just thinking about that everyday, that you could be out on the street," Mendez said.


© 2010 The Associated Press

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