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Distressed homeowners flock to NACA event

Sandra Larson | 11/2/2010, 10:50 p.m.
Bruce Marks, founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) gives an introductory speech to a crowd waiting for NACA’s “Save the Dream” event to begin at the World Trade Center in Boston. The event, which ran from Oct. 31-Nov. 2, drew thousands of New York and New England homeowners hoping to negotiate loan modifications with lenders. Sandra Larson

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Bruce Marks, founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) gives an introductory speech to a crowd waiting for NACA’s “Save the Dream” event to begin at the World Trade Center in Boston. The event, which ran from Oct. 31-Nov. 2, drew thousands of New York and New England homeowners hoping to negotiate loan modifications with lenders.

The nonprofit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) held a “Save the Dream” event in Boston last month, drawing thousands of struggling homeowners hungry for a chance to sit down with lenders and possibly walk away with a restructured mortgage they can afford.

When the three-day event opened at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31, the lobby of the Seaport World Trade Center was jammed and the line stretched out the door and around the corner.

Adeline Laguerre of Roslindale arrived the day before and waited in the lobby all night. She bought her home in 2004, she said. But two years ago she lost her job as a home health aide, and her husband’s taxi driver earnings didn’t pay the mortgage. The couple made some headway toward a loan modification, but the process has stalled.

“When they said to pay half, I sent it,” Laguerre said, “But then in June [2010], they said it’s not enough and they wouldn’t accept it.”

Now she has until Nov. 22 to save her home. Clutching her carefully-assembled paperwork, she said, “I know God will do something for us.”

Allright Paul, another early arriver, stood in line near Laguerre.

“We just can’t keep up,” Paul said. “Money is getting tighter and tighter.”

Payments were easy enough when he and his wife purchased their Brockton home in 2001, he said, but after five years the payments shot up 25 percent. His wife works at a hotel, but it’s seasonal, and his hours as a mental health counselor have been cut, he said. With all their other expenses, they are struggling with the mortgage and have received a notice of foreclosure.

They’ve been working with IndyMac, their current mortgage servicer, but the process — going on a year now — has been frustrating.

“We send them every piece of paper they ask for,” Paul said. “Then when we call them, they say our papers have been lost.”

NACA promises to cut through this sort of infuriating runaround, a common complaint by people trying to secure loan modifications through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) announced in 2009. At Save the Dream events, borrowers meet lenders in person, with up-to-date income records and budget in hand, which can go a long way to achieving a fast, straightforward deal.

Massachusetts has not been as hard hit in the nationwide foreclosure crisis as other parts of the country. But even so, nearly 11,000 properties were foreclosed on in Massachusetts in the first nine months of 2010, more than half again as many as the same period last year, the Boston Globe recently reported, citing figures from the Warren Group, a real estate tracking firm.

As the line grew before the start of Boston’s event, NACA Founder and CEO Bruce Marks worked the crowd with a megaphone in hand, pausing every dozen yards or so to repeat his welcome and introduction before anxious but hopeful faces.

“If you’ve filled out your paperwork already, you’ll go straight to meet your lender,” he called out. “Our goal is to get it done today.”