Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America

NACA (Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America) is a Boston-based, national, HUD Certified, non-profit, community advocacy organization. NACA’s goal is to build healthy neighborhoods nationwide through affordable home ownership. It was founded by Bruce Marks, a former Federal Reserve Bank of New York official, in 1988. The non-profit’s two major programs are its Purchase Program, labeled “America’s Best Mortgage”, and its Home Save Program, highlighted by NACA’s wildly popular “Save The Dream” events.

Contents

Founding of NACA

Bruce Marks, NACA Founder and CEO speaking to homeowners at a NACA Save The Dream event.

NACA began in 1988 in Boston as the Union Neighborhood Assistance Corporation (UNAC). Working with Local 26 of the Hotel Workers Union, Marks adopted the union’s activist tactics to confront lenders who were engaged in discriminatory and predatory lending practices, eventually winning and creating the nation’s first housing trust fund for union members and resulting in the first change to the Taft-Hartley Act in more than 30 years.

Marks’ next campaign was a four-and-a-half year battle against second mortgage scams, focusing on Fleet Finance. The campaign resulted in the establishment of an eight-billion dollar community reinvestment program and the funding of a $140 million NACA-administrated mortgage program. The program is often referred to as revolutionary because it features no down payment, no closing costs and no application fees. The program also extends debt ratios for people who do not fit conventional guidelines and can be applied to rehabilitation projects as well through NACA’s HAND (Home And Neighborhood Development) Department.[1]

Bank Terrorism

NACA founder and CEO Bruce Marks has been quoted referring to himself as a "non-violent bank terrorist"[2][3] and has used confrontational activism as a key element of NACA’s ongoing campaign to make affordable mortgages available to everyone. The organization’s efforts in persuading uncooperative financial executives have included leaking details of one bank executive’s divorce, piling furniture on the front lawn of another executive’s house to symbolize the results of foreclosure and photos of executives from mortgage firms posted on NACA’s website with the word “Predator” emblazoned across the front, sometimes even including their home phone numbers.

On October 30, 2008, 100 NACA protesters sat on the steps of government-backed mortgage finance company Fannie Mae's headquarters and demanded that the company modify loans to lower interest rates.[4]

Marks’ fervor has led to his arrest on multiple occasions, including during a 2010 Senate Banking Committee hearing as he attempted to bring to light the false promises made by a JP Morgan Chase executive.

News report of Bruce Marks being arrested at Senate Hearing

One reputed story places Marks at the Fulton Country Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, attempting to halt the public auction of foreclosed homes. After repeated warnings to leave the courthouse steps, Marks was arrested by a Sherriff’s Deputy and placed in the back of a Sherriff’s Department cruiser. Before closing the door, the deputy is alleged to have said, “Sit here for a few minutes Mr. Marks and I’ll let you go. I have an appointment with one of your counselors on Tuesday.” Marks’ relentless activism has resulted in many influential political allies on both sides of the aisle; most notably former House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank.[5]

Home Purchase Program

Over the ensuing years, Marks forged agreements with major lenders including Fleet, NationsBank, First Union, CitiGroup, Countrywide, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, GMAC, Chase and others. Multiple institutions committed more than $6 billion to the NACA home ownership program.[6]

In 2004, NACA introduced its NACA-Lynx software. The web-based, paperless mortgage application and processing system allows low and moderate income borrowers to obtain fair, fixed-rate 30 year mortgages in a streamlined process. The NACA process makes a mortgage available to many who would have otherwise been victimized by predatory lenders or denied the opportunity for home ownership completely.

NACA now has approximately 40 offices across the country providing mortgage services. Homeowners begin the NACA process by attending a Home Ownership Workshop conducted by one of the local offices. There, future homeowners begin a ten-step process which includes counseling and a financial analysis to determine what the buyer can legitimately afford, house hunting and price negotiation, inspection of the house and identification of needed repairs, and even post-closing counseling to ensure a stable home ownership experience.

Home Save Program

Seeing the coming housing market crash, Marks established NACA’s Home Save Program in 2007, utilizing the agreements he had forged with major mortgage lenders to provide third-party advocacy for homeowners needing modifications of their existing unaffordable or predatory mortgages. Using a variation of their proprietary NACA-Lynx software developed for the Home Purchase Program, NACA counselors determine the legitimately affordable payment figure for homeowners and submit a restructure proposal to the lender. This includes reductions in the interest rate, as well as potential reductions of the principal amount of the loan. NACA does not charge any money for its services.[7]

A national Home Save Counseling Center was established in Charlotte, NC in September 2008 to provide counseling and advocacy for struggling homeowners all over the country. In its first year, the staff of the center grew as the crisis ballooned. The original 30-member staff reached 600 by the center’s first anniversary.[8]

Save the Dream Tour

To reach and help a maximum number of suffering homeowners, the telephone and internet based Home Save Program developed its “Save The Dream Tour” concept, taking the Home Save program on the road, effectively setting up mobile servicing centers on its tour stops. The first “Save The Dream Tour” event was held July 19–23, 2008 in Washington, DC at the Capitol Hilton Hotel. More than 20,000 homeowners attended. Each event averages five days and routinely sees 30,000 homeowners seeking mortgage help.[9]

Representatives of the major servicers who have signed agreements with NACA are also on hand at Save The Dream events, providing same-day solutions for many homeowners on-site. Major breakthroughs with government backed investors such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been realized, with their representatives in attendance at Tour events also.

By the end of August 2011, NACA had produced 42 “Save The Dream Tour” events, having visited especially hard-hit areas such as Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, South Florida and Los Angeles more than once. NACA's eleven-day “Save The Dream Tour” event in Los Angeles, California January 20–30, 2011 was the largest foreclosure prevention and mortgage modification event in U.S. history.[10] Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed homeowners, volunteers and NACA staff at the event, expressing his astonishment and appreciation for the work NACA is doing and emphatically inviting NACA back for a fourth L.A. Save The Dream Tour event.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking to homeowners at NACA Save The Dream Event

The event even drew the attention of the Hollywood motion picture community, with an admiring film crew creating a brief documentary of the event, talking with both homeowners and NACA staff members, including CEO Bruce Marks, about their Save The Dream Event experiences.

Save The Dream Los Angeles documentary

Plans for 2011 “Save The Dream Tour” dates are the most aggressive yet including the longest continuous tour in NACA history: ten cities in seven weeks, including Birmingham AL, Memphis TN, Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Hartford CT, Baltimore, Jacksonville FL and Edison NJ. NACA will finish the year with events in Charlotte NC and Richmond VA.[11]

Chasing Chase

A year long battle with JP Morgan Chase ensued after Chase, which had signed a binding contractual agreement with NACA, broke that agreement and refused to work with the Home Save program. Chase ceased attending Save The Dream events, opting to follow NACA from city to city, creating parallel events separate from NACA’s in the same city at the same time.

Undaunted, NACA fervently continued to work with Chase homeowners and engaged on its “Chasing Chase” campaign. NACA also once again engaged in its relentless activism with demonstrations at Chase headquarters in New York and even during congressional hearings where Chase executives were testifying about the mortgage crisis.

NACA protest at JP Morgan Chase headquarters

CEO of Home Lending Dave Lowman was caught red handed by Bruce Marks and a group of homeowners with Chase mortgages who approached Lowman with questions after stating to the Congressional Committee that frustrated homeowners can “come to me”. When the homeowners tried to approach Lowman after the hearing adjourned, Lowman fled the room and the very people he had just openly invited to seek his help.

Dave Lowman confronted at House Finance Committee hearing

Additionally, armed with the contract Chase had signed with them, NACA took Chase to court for breach of contract. The suit eventually went to arbitration under the oversight of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, who was the judge who ruled against Microsoft in the government’s anti-trust action.[12]

NACA’s actions against Chase grew through the year-long dispute, including helping one thousand individual homeowners file lawsuits against Chase for refusal to act in good faith in modifying mortgages. NACA also encouraged Chase account holders to close their accounts and take their business elsewhere to protest the bank’s refusal to help struggling homeowners. Most notably, the village of Hempstead, NY withdrew all of its money from Chase, spearheading a statewide effort to have municipalities withdraw their money from Chase to protest excessive foreclosures.[13]

With a massive NACA-led protest and Save The Dream event scheduled to coincide with the JP Morgan Chase Annual Meeting on May 17, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio, Bruce Marks met with Chase executives in Washington, DC on May 4th, 2011 and hammered out an agreement whereby Chase would once again work closely with NACA and also attend Save The Dream events, beginning with the coming event in Columbus.

The results were almost immediate. Homeowners flocked to the Columbus event with Chase mortgages, with many receiving modifications they had been fighting for in some cases up to two years. The first success story, Sam Jimenez, had flown to Ohio all the way from California after learning of Chase’s return to the NACA process, and began the renewed relationship between NACA and Chase with a impressive solution. Ironically, the new relationship debuted with the first day of the Columbus Save the Dream event on Friday the 13th of May! The traditionally unlucky day became a day of renewed hope for Chase borrowers.

Bruce Marks welcomes Chase to Columbus event and Sam Jimenez shares his modification success

NACA Confronts HUD

In early 2011, tensions began to grow between NACA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) over the failure of FHA, HUD and the Obama Administration as a whole to adequately deal with the nation’s mortgage crisis. NACA had become openly critical about several areas where HUD had not helped homeowners.

Among them was the highly touted but ineffective Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), also known as the Making Home Affordable plan (MHA). The program itself was fundamentally flawed, providing only short term relief for most homeowners because of a payment and interest rate that began to creep up after the first five years. In addition, the program had provided modifications to only 16% of eligible homeowners. Furthermore, half of the granted modifications were eventually cancelled, creating a true success rate of less than 8%.[14][15]

Tensions grew even more as Bruce Marks lobbied for FHA to ease their requirements for granting mortgage modifications, which were the strictest and most prohibitive in the mortgage industry. Many homeowners with FHA mortgages found themselves in an impossibly difficult situation, effectively penalized for having an FHA mortgage by being denied modification under FHA’s unrealistic guidelines, when mortgages backed by other mortgage investors and insurers would qualify for modification under exactly the same circumstances.[16]

NACA focused its criticism on HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. NACA became openly critical of Donovan, stating that since becoming Secretary, Donovan’s interviews, speeches and other statements seemed to place emphasis on energy efficient homes, transportation related issues and even health concerns rather than preserving home ownership.

HUD Secreatary Shaun Donovan Focuses On Green Communities Instead of Stopping Foreclosures

In retaliation, HUD dispatched their Inspector General’s Office to conduct a full audit of NACA in an attempt to discredit NACA and challenge NACA’s HUD certification as a counseling agency. The six-month long, highly detailed audit backfired on HUD when the Inspector General’s report came back with zero recommendations.[17]

HUD’s Emergency Home Loan Program (EHLP) also drew sharp criticism from NACA. The program, designed to make temporary “bridge loans” available to struggling homeowners, had one billion dollars in funding available for catching up delinquent mortgages caused by loss of income in the household. The application process was to be administrated by HUD certified counseling agencies. As the largest such organization by far, NACA had applied to HUD for an allocation of 70% of the total demand. Instead, HUD excluded NACA from the program completely.

By allocating the administration to smaller, mainly local agencies, HUD had virtually guaranteed that only a small part of the EHLP money would actually be used to save struggling homeowners from foreclosure. The start of the application period was delayed for six months, giving eligible homeowners less than a month to apply for the help. Also, program restrictions required any of the funding not used by September 30, 2011 to be returned to the federal treasury and would no longer be available to homeowners.

Seeing that thousands of homeowners would never have the chance to participate in the EHLP program, NACA launched its own campaign to encourage the members of their Home Save program to apply for the funding, sending out pre-application forms to every NACA member in the 32 states where the program applied. NACA members responded en masse, returning some 5000 applications, virtually all of them stating they would have never heard about the program had it not been for the NACA campaign.

With no direct means of submitting the applications to HUD, NACA turned to their long time supporter and former House Financial Services Committee Chairman, Barney Frank. Frank agreed to use his influence to get the NACA generated applications in front of HUD officials and reviewed so that thousands of otherwise forsaken homeowners would be able to take advantage of the one-time opportunity.

On July 20, 2011 NACA filed a lawsuit against HUD, claiming HUD’s attempt to de-certify NACA and the termination of NACA’s HUD funding were without justification and were politically motivated.[18] The suit is anticipated to take several months in the courts.

Social Media and NACA Radio

NACA Radio
NACA logo.png
City of license Los Angeles, California and Charlotte, North Carolina
Webcast Listen Live
Website [2]

In late 2010 and early 2011, NACA began the expansion of its outreach efforts into social media and other web-based mass media. The establishment of a Facebook presence under NACA’s full name Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America and a Twitter presence @NACAEvents expanded NACA’s reach to the social media, and provided the organization’s growing following with a new real-time means of following Save The Dream events.

During NACA’s record-setting Los Angeles Save The Dream event, CEO Bruce Marks appeared as a guest on the internet-based radio program “Combat Radio” on LA Talk Radio hosted by Ethan Dettenmaier, who also happened to be a member of a film crew producing a documentary about the event. Marks’ appearance on the program, discussing NACA’s efforts in LA and especially their “Chasing Chase” campaign, led to dozens of listeners immediately closing their Chase accounts and moving to other banks in protest of Chase’s refusal to abide by their contract with NACA and failure to help homeowners in general.

Seeing the power of the new medium, Marks quickly set up an agreement with Dettenmaier to create a new show on LA Talk Radio simply called “NACA Radio”, a weekly, one hour program discussing NACA’s Save The Dream events, highlighting upcoming dates, showcasing success stories from past events, stressing NACA’s ongoing advocacy efforts and discussing news stories relevant to the mortgage crisis.

Dettenmaier agreed to host the program, and veteran NACA counselor and negotiator Tim Trumble, a 30-year broadcasting veteran before joining NACA, was quickly recruited to serve as co-host and co-producer. NACA Communications and Public Affairs Director Darren Duarte, himself an Emmy-winning journalist is a frequent contributor to the show along with regular commentary from NACA Founder and CEO Bruce Marks.

The show first aired March 16, 2011 and has had rapid audience growth since its start. The program airs each Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time/10:00 a.m. Pacific Time on www.LATalkRadio.com, channel 2. The show can be heard live and be downloaded as a podcast.

References

Wikipedia links

Loan Modification in the United States

External links


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