August 20, 2009

Whitehouse Brings Together Rhode Island Experts and Local Homeowners to Discuss Foreclosure Crisis

Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today brought together a panel of local experts and homeowners to discuss the impact of the foreclosure crisis on Rhode Island families. The participants joined Whitehouse at Rhode Island Housing in Providence for an official field hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, of which Whitehouse is Chairman.


“As I travel around our state, I often hear concerns from Rhode Islanders about the impact of our nation’s housing crisis,” said Whitehouse. “It is clear to me that Congress must do more to help struggling American homeowners. If we fail to act, I fear that we put ourselves at risk and that a vicious cycle of foreclosures, falling home values, and declining tax revenues will keep us in recession for years to come.”

“Rhode Island ranks 10th in the nation for foreclosures and the numbers continue to climb as lenders act on backlogged and recent defaults,” said Susan Bodington who testified at the hearing as Deputy Director for Planning at Rhode Island Housing. “An estimated 5,669 Rhode Islanders received notification that foreclosure proceedings were initiated on their homes, and 1,167 Rhode Islanders lost their homes due to foreclosure in the first six months of 2009 alone.”

Jeffrey Burlingame, a Woonsocket resident also testified about his struggle to negotiate more reasonable mortgage terms with his lender. Burlingame purchased a home in 2006 at the height of the housing bubble and took out two mortgages to finance the purchase. As the economy began to decline it became increasingly difficult for Burlingame and his family to keep up with payments, prompting them to request modifications of their mortgage terms in order to lower their monthly payments. Despite making regular mortgage payments in a timely manner, Burlingame was still denied the opportunity to re-negotiate his mortgage terms, and now risks losing his home.

“My wife and I are working hard to retain our home. It seems to us that [our loan servicer] would rather foreclose on our house than follow the law and renegotiate our mortgage terms,” said Burlingame.

Today’s hearing also included testimony from Joseph Verdelotti, Jr., a homeowner from West Warwick, and David Pollock, a homeowner from Cranston, both of whom are also struggling to avoid foreclosure, as well as John Rao, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

Whitehouse is a cosponsor of the Helping Families Save Their Homes in Bankruptcy Act of 2009 (S. 61), introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), which would allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of home mortgages, in the same manner that they are currently permitted to modify the terms of almost every other type of contract. A version of the legislation was defeated in a Senate floor vote earlier this year. Today’s hearing examined whether, given the worsening foreclosure crisis, the time has come to reexamine bankruptcy reform.

Whitehouse’s statement, the witnesses’ testimony, and other materials will be entered into the official record of the Senate Judiciary Committee.


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