A landmark federal program launched in 2012 that auctions delinquent mortgages to private organizations is under fire following a watchdog report that found for-profit companies are too often beating out community groups whose sole mission is to keep people in their homes.
Nearly 10,000 Florida home loans have been auctioned off since 2012 through the Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, created the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The idea was private organizations that could buy the loans at a discount have more flexibility in modifying mortgages, making them better situated to keep people in their homes.
But the report this week from the Center for Popular Democracy and the Right to the City Alliance found corporate for-profit companies have won the majority of the auctions with increasingly higher bids that give them less room to negotiate lower mortgage payments for the homeowner.
Of 26 firms buying loans, just three are non-profits.
One of the non-profits, New Jersey-based National Community Capital, has partnered with Florida’s $1 billion Hardest Hit Fund to write down mortgage principal on loans it wins at auction. Problem is, it has only won one small auction and as of spring just 12 Florida homeowners had been approved to earn Hardest Hit money through the program.
“We’re seeing an unprecedented rise of the corporate landlord, and HUD’s Distressed Asset Stabilization Program is just facilitating the process,” said Rachel Laforest, executive director of the Right to the City Alliance. “HUD should employ a credit system that favors nonprofit bidders whose sole mission is community investment and implement stronger requirements for bid winners to preserve homeownership and give struggling families affordable housing options.”
Manish Kumar for ENI
New Delhi: There may be some good news for home buyers in future as the government is planning to introduce the Real Estate Promotion and Regulation (Bill) in the next session of Parliament. Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu also revealed on Thursday that the government is planning a scheme to provide home loans at lesser interest rates to make housing more affordable for the urban poor.
Instead of real estate regulation, we will bring Real Estate Promotion and Regulation Bill. We need to protect consumer. Consumer cant be forced to go to court every time, he said.
Naidu said that the government is looking at bringing an interest subvention scheme aimed at affordable housing for the urban poor.
We are soon going to provide relief in the high interest rates for the people living in urban areas. We will come up with an interest subvention scheme for the urban poor so that they can buy a house for themselves easily, Naidu said.
The current home loans offered by most of the banks are at around 10-10.5 per cent.
To boost the housing sector, bringing down the interest rate is a must. In Ataljis time, the interest rate on home loans used to be around 6-7 per cent. Ordinary people cannot afford the current skyrocketing interest rates, he said.
Citing the example of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which constructs cheap flats in Delhi, Naidu said that private builders should also look at building economical residential apartments in the city.
If DDA can build cheap flats in Delhi, where land rates are second only to Mumbai, then why cant private builders do the same, he said.
(Manish Kumar can be reached at email@example.com)
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There is no shortage of credit cards from which a consumer can choose. Credit card promotions can be found everywhere from social media to brick and mortar institutions. According to Michigan State University Extension, analyzing your own payments and spending patterns will help you pick the right card for your lifestyles.
There are websites that claim to help you find the ideal card. These sites are often sponsored by companies and will always select a card offered by their sponsors, not necessarily the best card for you. It is almost impossible to tell which sites are legitimate. However, ConsumerReports.org has chosen Lowcards.com and Cardratings.com as two search engines that make unbiased decisions. Both sites ask questions to help build a consumer profile to find the best match. These sites also have additional credit tips and information to help users.
If the consumer wishes to take a hands-on approach, Neighborworks America suggests that they start by asking the following questions from their Building Skills for Financial Confidence Manual:
- Is the interest fixed or variable?
- If variable, what is the initial rate, how long is it good for and how much can it increase?
- What financial indicator or index (such as Prime Rate) is it tied to?
- What is the Annual Percentage Rate (APR)?
- Is there an annual fee?
- What method is used to calculate the interest owed each month?
- If a payment is late, how is it handled?
- What are the late fees, over limit fees and balance transfer fees?
- What kind of fraud protection is offered?
- What types of rewards program is offered (miles, points, products, etc)?
- Do the rewards expire or are there other restrictions?
The Cardmember Agreement contains the details that will answer these questions. Thanks to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009, this information is easy to find. By combining the knowledge of ones financial habits with the information gathered about the credit cards, the consumers next step is to choose, and apply for, the appropriate card.
Researching credit card options can aid consumers when selecting the best credit card for your lifestyle.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://bit.ly/MSUENews. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
Chattanoogans arent being robbed as much as they used to be.
Citywide, burglaries and robberies are at the lowest levels in five years, according to the Chattanooga Police Department — a clear dip that is part of a national trend of declining property crime during the last 12 months.
The number of burglaries — when thieves break into homes — is 10 percent below the five-year average this year, according to police. And robberies — when thieves steal from a person — are down 15 percent compared to the five-year average.
Nationwide, property crime dropped 5.4 percent in the first six months of 2013, according to the most recent FBI data.
Local investigators credit tips from neighbors and calls from concerned community members as key to the decline, as well as cooperation among area law enforcement agencies.
This is not something that happens overnight, said Sgt. Scott Bales with the CPDs robbery unit. Everyone has been really focused on this during the last couple years. We make sure we follow every lead.
Compared to last year alone, robberies are down 16 percent and burglaries are down 2.9 percent, according to police.
But the dropping crime rate is no comfort for the Chattanoogans who have been robbed or burglarized. Hixson resident Jason Wright said a group of men kicked in his door about three weeks ago, and he was not happy with police response.
The police did nothing, he said. They didnt give me a report number, they didnt question my neighbors, they didnt look around.
Only 168 of all 2,337 burglaries in Chattanooga were cleared last year. Thats about 7 percent. Robbery victims fared better — 22 percent of all robberies were cleared by Chattanooga police, according to TBI.
Many of the cases that are solved develop from tips from community members, said Sgt. Rebecca Shelton, with CPDs burglary and fraud unit.
The community really does help, she said. When you put out a video that a robbery or burglary suspect is seen in, they actually call in. I think the community has gotten more involved.
Despite the numbers, Wright said he doesnt think Hixsons burglary rate is really dropping.
Wright was home when a group of men kicked down his door, and they ran away when he yelled at them, he said. Because the men left without stealing anything, Wright said police categorized the case as vandalism.
The police said this isnt attempted burglary because we cant prove intent to steal anything, he said. They want to make excuses and say its vandalism. But how much vandalism is actually breaking and entering?
ROCKINGHAM An old expression has taken on new meaning in the age of lottery scams: You cant win if you dont play.
Phone, mail and door-to-door scams targeting elderly residents are making the rounds in Richmond County, and Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. is warning folks of all ages not to fall prey to the fraudsters.
Do not accept a phone call talking about winning the lottery when you know you havent entered a lottery, Clemmons said on Friday, later adding, Youve got to pay money to get money? No. If I won, bring it to me.
Lottery scams in which a person is told her or she needs to send an advance payment to collect winnings are routinely reported throughout North Carolina. Scammers sometimes mail what appears to be a genuine check and instruct residents to deposit it and return a portion of the winnings to the sender for processing.
If the banks do cash it, when they find out the error, theyre going to come back to those individuals for that money, Clemmons said.
Banks may post funds from a fraudulent check to a customers account before catching the error and rescinding the deposit. Scam victims often dont learn of the discrepancy until days after theyve sent the requested payment.
Clemmons said the sheriffs office has no recent reports of residents losing money to check scams, but they remain a threat.
There have been instances in the past that people have come in with those bad checks, and some of them have been unlucky enough to cash them, Clemmons said.
Con artists have cost some county residents much of their life savings.
We have had people in the past in Richmond County who have been scammed of more than $100,000, Clemmons said.
Phone scammers may say theyre calling from a government agency, bank or credit card company, but will ask victims to provide sensitive personal information that a legitimate company would already have on file. Clemmons said residents shouldnt give out any information when asked by someone who phones them.
If these phone calls are being received, do not give them your name or information, he said. Most definitely, do not give your Social Security number to anyone.
Fraudsters are persistent, Clemmons notes, and will often try to scare their victims into staying on the line.
If these seniors receive these phone calls, and some of them start by saying, Dont hang up, well, my advice is to hang up immediately, the sheriff said.
Richmond County residents targeted in phone, mail or door-to-door scams can report them to the sheriffs office. Clemmons said those with caller ID should provide deputies with the phone number where the suspicious calls came from whenever possible.
When scams originate outside Richmond County, deputies forward the information to the NC Attorney Generals Office, Clemmons said. Residents can contact the attorney generals Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-877-566-7226.
The sheriff is also encouraging residents to guard themselves against pickpockets and purse-snatchers who often approach customers entering or leaving stores. Clemmons suggests leaving pocketbooks out of plain sight in locked cars and carrying only cash or a credit or debit card into the store.
Theres no need to carry your pocketbook with all your ID, Clemmons said, going on to explain that thieves can run away with not only money, but cards containing personal information that can be used to steal a persons identity. If you can, shop with family members or friends. Be mindful of your surroundings.
Clemmons also urges residents to be on the lookout for credit report and credit-monitoring services that promise free credit information but have hidden fees.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, to provide one free consumer credit report each year. The only website to obtain these free reports is www.annualcreditreport.com, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Other websites that advertise free credit reports are operated by private businesses and often try to sell add-on services like Beacon scores, which are not included in the free annual reports, or monthly credit monitoring.
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @RCDailyJournal.
Credit experts say there are a few obvious reasons like blowing off bills regularly or having a recent bankruptcy that can get you denied. There are also some more surprising reasons why you might have trouble getting a credit card.
You dont have enough credit. Some people pat themselves on the back for having only a single credit card, or none at all. No credit cards or other obligations like mortgages or car loans, may mean youre just frugal and really good with your money. But it makes you a cipher to credit card companies. Lenders prefer being able to review a track record of how a person has managed credit in the past, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling says. Without that, theres a good chance they might not gamble on the unknown.
Youre going too fast. Its a red flag if a person is attempting to obtain too much credit at one time, the NFCC says. Yes, this might seem counter to the idea that you need to build up your credit to get more credit. The key, though, is to build that credit history slowly. If an issuer sees that you just got a few new credit cards, they might wonder if youre going to be able to handle one more.
You fell for that preapproval pitch. All that junk mail you get that says youre preapproved doesnt mean a thing, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. Those offers are prescreened, but when consumers respond, an actual, full screening will take place, she says. That more extensive look at your finances could catch a red flag the system’s earlier, less in-depth review missed.
You follow the 30% rule. The conventional wisdom is that you should keep your credit utilization ratio that is, how much credit you have outstanding as a percentage of your credit limit to 30% or lower. In reality, even a reasonable-sounding 30% might be too high for some skittish lenders. The lower the utilization ratio the better, says Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com. The amount of debt you have makes up 30% of your FICO credit score, so too much outstanding debt compared to your limit (thats both per card and in the aggregate, FYI) can turn off a lender.
Youre double-dipping. If you are trying to take advantage of the same bonus offer you already nabbed, your application may be denied, Detweiler says. On a related note, if you already have multiple cards from the same issuer, you may not be approved for another one, Arnold says, especially if you’re trying to hit up the same bank for a balance transfer deal.
Somebody else messed up. Mistakes happen, and one on your credit report can keep you from getting a card, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO and founder of Evolution Finance. Go to annualcreditreport.com to see your credit report for free. Dont fall for similar-sounding sites; they might be trying to sell you an expensive credit-monitoring subscription. Go through the report and, if you find a mistake, Papadimitriou says sites like CardHub.com (which his company owns) offer guides for how to dispute credit report errors.
Patients affected by a recent data security breach at hospitals and clinics in West Virginia will have access to free credit monitoring.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday his office has been in contact with Community Health Systems, parent company of four West Virginia hospitals and several clinics that discovered the security breach last week. The company said the information that was accessed was non-medical patient identification data related to the system#x2019;s physician practice operations. No medical, health or financial information was stored on the data servers that were compromised.
Community Health Systems is working with Kroll, a risk management company, to set up a website and toll-free number for people affected by the breach or who have questions. The company will offer identity theft protection to patients identified as victims, and Kroll began sending letters to those patients Wednesday.
#x201c;Our office is committed to working with other states that were affected by this breach, and we will vigorously protect the consumers of West Virginia from any threat to their personal information,#x201d; Morrisey said. #x201c;Any patient who received treatment at any of these offices in the last five years should contact the company and take advantage of any identity theft protection it offers. We will continue to update consumers on this important issue.#x201d;
The breach affected Oak Hill Clinic Corp., Oak Hill Hospital Corp., Bluefield Clinic Company LLC., Greenbrier Valley Anesthesia LLC., Greenbrier Valley Emergency Physicians and Ronceverte Physician Group.
For information, patients can visit http://kroll.idmonitoringservice.com or call 1-855-205-6951.
BULLOCH COUNTY, GA –
Bulloch Pediatrics is warning patients that some of their personal information may have been compromised. The office says on July 12th it was discovered that someone broke into several locked storage units at a local facility; two of which were leased by Bulloch Pediatrics.
The office says a few pieces of medical equipment and shelving were taken. The units alsoheldsomeold insurance records and other payment records. Some of these records contained patient names, policy holder names, policy numbers and in a few instances, social security numbers. Bulloch Pediatrics says to the best of their knowledge, none of these records were removed from the unit. However, as a precaution the office has arranged for one free year of credit monitoring for anyone who had their child treated at Bulloch Pediatrics.
Anyone with questions, or interest in the free credit monitoring, can call the office toll free at 1-877-730-7454 and ask to speak with the credit monitoring department.
An employee of the Memorial Hermann Health System inappropriately accessed confidential information of more than 10,000 patients over a 6 ½-year period, the chain announced Friday.
The system on Friday began mailing letters notifying affected patients of the breach, one of the largest of its kind in the Texas Medical Center. The accessed data included medical records, health insurance information and, in some cases, social security numbers. It did not include financial information, such as credit cards or bank accounts.
We learned that a now former clinical employee accessed patients electronic medical records outside of the employees normal job duties from December 2007 to July 2014, says the letter. We immediately launched a thorough investigation, including hiring outside forensics experts, and suspended the employees access to the medical records.
The employee, who was not named, is no longer with the institution, a Memorial Hermann statement said. The statement provided no information about the intent behind the unauthorized access, but a spokeswoman said there is no indication it involved fraudulent purposes.
The matter has been reported as a possible violation of state and federal privacy laws to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Attorney Generals office.
The incident is the latest in a seemingly unending string of security breaches in the Medical Center. Since 2010, there have been incidents at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas Childrens Hospital. Most concerned the loss or theft of computers or computer storage devices.
The biggest breach involved a stolen MD Anderson laptop containing information on 30,000 patients, including the specific medical information of 10,000.
In the Memorial Hermann incident, the medical records of all the 10,604 patients was accessed.
The system has established a dedicated call center related to the incident and offered to assist those who may have been impacted, including through a credit monitoring service.
Memorial Hermann officials first learned of the breach on July 7 and finalized its inquiry last week.
An investigation by HHS is automatic in cases where the information of more than 500 patients is breach. If HHS investigators find a pattern of failure to protect patient information, fines of up to $1.5 million for each calendar year in question can be imposed.
We value patient privacy and deeply regret any inconvenience this may have caused our patients, Memorial Hermanns letter ends. Although privacy training is in place for all employees, Memorial Hermann continues to investigate and to review its privacy policies and practices in an effort to prevent something like this from happening in the future.