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By Nozipo Wobogo                          Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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Posted on Tuesday, Oct. 25 2011     
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The final count is in. Two hundred ten people attended the San Mateo County Foreclosure Resource Fair to get assistance with their housing issues. The latest figures come from the office of Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who hosted the foreclosure fair in early October. The fair included a series of panel discussions, workshops and individual counseling.

Those who attended heard the panel presentations that were given and many of the participants took the opportunity to speak with the lawyers, housing advocates, loan specialists and lenders, who were there, about their individual situations.

The individual one-on-one sessions seemed especially helpful. Phong Pham, who desperately needed advice, sat in one of the waiting areas to consult with an attorney. “My foreclosure is just beginning,” she said. “My husband passed away last December. I had title issues on my home so I hope they can help me. I need to talk to a lawyer.”

Lewis Laird, another attendee at the fair, shared his story. “Two years ago, I had an operation,” he said. “I took out an adjustable loan but needed a loan modification due to my illness. I used savings to pay the mortgage and was able to get a trial modification. I was rejected after only two payments.”

Rebecca Irwin, who is the legislative aide to Supervisor Jacobs Gibson, said, “It's hard to know how many received loan modifications because of the fair. Our tracking isn't that extensive, but we received a lot of really positive feedback.”

When asked why she hosted the fair, Supervisor Jacobs Gibson, who represents the Fourth District in San Mateo County, said, “I was contacted by phone by so many people with these problems I knew we just had to do something to reach as many of them as possible.”

Jacobs Gibson constituents live in the communities of East Palo Alto, Redwood City, Menlo Park, North Fair Oaks and Oak Knoll. During the foreclosure fair, the attendees were assisted by such organizations as Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County,

Project Sentinel, HIP, Mental Health Services, San Mateo Credit Union, Wells Fargo Bank, PNC Mortgage, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, California Reinvestment Coalition and many others.

The diverse groups partnering at the fair covered subjects like loan modifications, foreclosure, reverse mortgages, transitional housing. One of the most sought after areas for information and counseling was loan modification.

According to a number of sources, loan modifications are extremely difficult to get if at all. Percentages of success are sometimes ten percent or lower out of all troubled homeowners. The largest number of those who apply for one will be denied for a myriad of reasons. Also, government loan programs like HAMP and KYHC have qualifications that exclude large groups of homeowners.

The subject of transitional housing was not an easy one for Mario Argeta ,who said, “I need a loan modification, but since the bank won’t agree to it, I’m doing a short sale. I don’t understand why they would rather accept less money for the house when I would pay full price with just an adjustment in my mortgage payment.” Argeta wept over the coming loss of his home.

Those who missed this year's fair, which was held at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center in Menlo Park, can contact Supervisor Jacobs Gibson's office at (650) 363- 4570 for more information and referrals.

Additional information can be found in the Foreclosure Prevention Resource Guide, which is available on the Supervisor's web site at www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/rosejacobsgibson. Those who call Jacobs Gibson office and request a copy of the guide can get a copy mailed to them for free.

According to Irwin, “The guide is a comprehensive resource that walks homeowners through the foreclosure process, informs them of their rights, offers a list of foreclosure counseling agencies and legal experts to help save their homes, and provides additional listings for general assistance. It also provides information for renters. The publication is available in English and Spanish,” she said.




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