Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) assists people facing home foreclosure. Jaime Aguirre, Phoenix housing director for CPLC, talks about what the organization is doing to help people keep their homes.
Web site: Chicanos Por La Causa Homeowner Assistance
José Cardenas: Arizona continues to be one of the top five states for home foreclosures in the country. If you are struggling to keep your home or aren't getting answers from financial institutions, Chicanos Por la Causa in Phoenix may be able to help you. With me to talk about this is Jaime Aguirre, Phoenix housing director for Chicanos Por la Causa. Jaime, welcome.
Jaime Aguirre: Thank you.
José Cardenas: You're been in this position for about a year?
Jaime Aguirre: Yes, sir.
José Cardenas: Tell us what you do, then I want to get into some of the specifics.
Jaime Aguirre: My job is to oversee the housing department here in phoenix. We do prepurchase counseling for those looking to purchase a home and right now, our biggest concern is people who are in the process of losing their homes.
José Cardenas: You focus on both ends of the spectrum?
Jaime Aguirre: Exactly.
José Cardenas: With respect to foreclosures, which is what we want to focus on, has the latino community been hit particularly hard by the downturn in the economy?
Jaime Aguirre: Definitely, it's one the hardest hit by the epidemic. Victims of a lot of subprime lending and misleading tactics when the high market was going with the prices going up. A lot loans that shouldn't have been made for those folks, they were taken advantage of. One, because it was the first time they were buying a home, it wasn't really in their families, a lot of these people were first time home buyers and they were just excited by the idea and didn't make the best decisions.
José Cardenas: Some shouldn't have been in the homes.
Jaime Aguirre: Definitely not.
José Cardenas: How can you be of help to them?
Jaime Aguirre: We can definitely try and help, explaining the process of the modification, if it's not available, we can explore other options such as short sale or forbearance payments. If that's not a possibility, we can help them find an honorable exit from their homes and figure a way that they can transition to a new stage in their lives and maybe one day hopefully be a homeowner again.
José Cardenas: How do you let them know these services are available?
Jaime Aguirre: It's been in the community for 42 years and it's grassroots and we have marketing through the community, statewide to offer these services.
José Cardenas: And so part of what you do -- you mentioned loan modifications, that involves dealing with a bank?
Jaime Aguirre: Exactly.
José Cardenas: How do you do that?
Jaime Aguirre: They fill out an application and we collect documents, tax information and pay stubs if they have any. If they're unemployed, we get that type of information and explain to them what the process will be and help create a package to submit to the lender, from there we have an authorization form filled out for the lenders to be able -- lenders to contact us and work closely, and for the client to understand what they're signing and if they're able it find a eligible program, such as a modification.
José Cardenas: Do you provide other services, financial counseling?
Jaime Aguirre: Yes, actually we do, for people who are going to be homeowners, we offer credit counseling, if that's an issue that is preventing them. And we have referral services in our agency that can help.
José Cardenas: What about folks who are able to make the payments but barely? Their equity is gone, the house under water, so to speak. Do you ever counsel them to walk away?
Jaime Aguirre: That's something we don't want to do. In the long run, it hurts the community and one of the things we strive for is having strong communities and we encourage them to look at options, maybe selling the property or figuring out ways to work on the financial situation to find a way to maintain the property or other ways of income to deal with the issue. If they're struggling to a point where they're not able to make the payments, we definitely encourage them to come in and take advantage of the free counseling we offer to see what other options are available.
José Cardenas: That might include a loan modification?
Jaime Aguirre: Exactly.
José Cardenas: And you've got established relationships with banks such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo?
Jaime Aguirre: Yes, and like every agency, we go through the process. Different portals available because we're a hud-certified agency that we can utilize. One of the advantages, we're a subgrantee of -- a subgrantor and have different partnerships that allow us to have a little better method of contacts of the lenders and people like Freddie Mac.
José Cardenas: You hear horror stories, there's been some in recent weeks, about banks losing documents, banks apparently willing to make loan modification and then not going through with it. Have you run into that?
Jaime Aguirre: Definitely it's something that we face. That's why we have a proactive staff to be on the ball and stay in contact with the lenders and clients so we don't miss any of those steps. we understand this is a struggle for a lot of banks because it's a big problem and they have hundreds of thousands of foreclosures they're dealing with but we want to do the best on our part to have the information available to help our clients possible by finding the right resolution for them.
José Cardenas: Another big problem this has generated, people trying to take advantage of people in difficult situations. Scammers, how do you deal with that?
Jaime Aguirre: One of the things that we tell people anyone trying to charge you for a service, it's more than likely a scam.
José Cardenas: Your services are free?
Jaime Aguirre: Yes. In Arizona, it's illegal to charge for any mediation counseling prior to a resolution.
José Cardenas: Jaime Aguirre, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Good to have you here.
Jaime Aguirre:Phoenix housing director, Chicanos Por La Causa;