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Foreclosure Resource Center offers help

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Foreclosure Resource Center, a multi-agency response to the foreclosure crisis, is set to launch.

The establishment of the FRC is scheduled to be announced at an inaugural meeting on Thursday at 3 p.m., along with a foreclosure-crisis hotline and a two-pronged plan of prevention and intervention.

The resource center comes out of the concerns of the Housing Authority of Clayton County, which started looking at ways to respond to the blight of foreclosures more than four months ago. Carlo Musso, Housing Authority board chairman, said the housing crisis was urgent and board members felt strongly that they should do something.

"If our mission as a Housing Authority involves preventing urban blight and all of the economic and social problems that come with that, I can't think of a better way than by forming a community resource center with the mission of keeping local families in their homes," Musso said.

To establish the FRC, the Housing Authority is working with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Greater Atlanta, financial education and training institute D&E, the Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity, Metro South Association of Realtors, and Clayton Collaborative/New Birth South Community Impact Center.

The first response to foreclosures will be set up by Thursday. The FRC will activate the phone number (404) 260-3149, and trained financial counselors will be dedicated to the phone line, prepared to assist and answer questions from Clayton County homeowners facing foreclosure.

The primary approach of the FRC is designed to be prevention, something to "stem the tide of foreclosures," according to spokesman, Chris Wood. The center is currently working on a letter to all the homeowners with recently advertised foreclosure proceedings, as published in the Clayton News Daily's legal advertisements. The FRC is offering free, professional foreclosure-prevention counseling to all these homeowners.

"We think we can prevent some foreclosures just by helping homeowners access a third-party professional, who can counsel them objectively and accurately on their options," Musso said.

The efforts will include helping struggling homeowners identify available options, consider alternative repayment plans, and negotiate possible changes to the terms of a loan. The services will be available to all Clayton County homeowners, without qualification and regardless of income.

The second prong of the FRC approach will be more extreme, offering to intervene to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The resource center is looking at ways to give homeowners a "soft second," or second mortgage, to help them catch up on delinquent payments.

The FRC is also pursuing grants and working on a "pilot program of neighborhood stabilization," according to Wood.

Musso said the FRC is "begin[ning] to assemble the many resources that are needed to reverse this current trend of foreclosures in our country."

The inaugural meeting will be held at 3 p.m., in the Housing Authority conference room, at 732 Main St., in Forest Park.

The foreclosure help hotline will be activated at that time: (404) 260-3149.