As the state budget is negotiated in Albany, New Yorkers are rallying for what they call a critical program left out of Gov. Kathy Hochul's $227 billion budget plan.
It’s called the Homeowners Protection Program (HOPP), and it assists more than 15,000 homeowners that find themselves in distress every year.
“The HOPP program helped me save my family’s home from foreclosure,” said Melessa Anderson, a HOPP beneficiary.
Anderson bought a home 15 years ago after landing a new job.
“In 2012, I brought my newborn twins to that house," she said. "They took their first steps, said their first words there, learned to ride bikes in the driveway, and we planted a vegetable garden in the back.”
Several years ago, Anderson’s employer downsized, forcing her to take another job, which didn't pay as much. The home where all her memories were made went into limbo.
“I was forced to file for bankruptcy," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, this did not solve all of my financial problems.”
Enter HOPP. Over the course of three years, a network of legal services helped Anderson modify her mortgage payment, secure a new interest rate and even a higher paying job.
“I can breathe easy for the first time in a long time because our home is safe,” she said.
Stories like this make the $40 million investment, included in both the state Assembly and state Senate counter budget proposals, worth it, advocates said.
“As of today, 350,000 New York families are behind on their mortgage payments and at risk of foreclosure,” said Marlene Morales of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.
They say omitting funding for the program this year does not jive with Hochul’s other housing initiatives.
“What’s the sense of building more homes when you’re going to lose many more before you even get to the first stick in the ground,” state Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said.
Should HOPP not be included in the final budget, which is due next week, the program will run out of money by mid-July.
“We do not want to neglect the homeowners in this state," state Senator Brian Kavanagh said. "Homeownership has been a way for people build wealth and build equity for generations.”