Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation breathes life into fight against foreclosure epidemic
January 7, 2010 Media Release
 

(Raleigh, NC) – Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) announced today that the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will continue its vital support for LANC by renewing a major grant of $450,000 for its Home Defense Project. 

The Home Defense Project (HDP) fights to save homes and reduce foreclosures in North Carolina.  In North Carolina, home foreclosures are expected to exceed 50,000 in 2010.

"At a time of tremendous financial stress and declining revenue for foundations, a renewed award in such a substantial amount is both a solid statement of support for the work and an indication of the profound impact the still-expanding foreclosure epidemic is having on communities," said Hazel Mack, HDP project director and senior managing attorney for LANC.  "The grant is recognition that creative legal strategies are essential if working families are to be kept from homelessness and if we are to stabilize our neighborhoods and our communities throughout the state in the wake of this crisis. 

The HDP is a collaboration of seven nonprofit organizations:  Legal Aid of North Carolina, the NC Justice Center, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Pisgah Legal Services, the Land Loss Prevention Project, the Financial Protection Law Center and the NC Housing Coalition. 

Through a combination of skillful negotiation, aggressive litigation, and community education, the HDP over the last three years has saved thousands of homes from foreclosure and preserved millions of dollars in equity for low-wealth working families.  The project has also trained hundreds of housing counselors who engage in much of the frontline work. 

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation provided initial support for the nascent HDP when the fight was against predatory and abusive lending. 

"The Foundation has never waivered in its support for foreclosure defense work," noted Mack.  "As the crisis has death-spiraled into the financial markets and then into the economy as a whole -- even as its own revenue declined--the Foundation has never reduced support for the project."

LANC and its legal services partners on the HDF use their legal skills and resources to seek reasonable loan modifications when they can, and they aggressively litigate when they must.  The loan modification process is a morass--creditor incentives are too often non-existent--and the process in each case is unique and requires a skillful, patient lawyer.  Collaboration among the HDF partners allows the HDP to serve every county in the state with high-quality foreclosure defense work. 

In addition, the NC Justice Center (NCJC) and the Financial Protection Law Center provide litigation support and analysis on impact cases.  The NCJC also assists with training and the implementation of best practices, tactics and strategies for individual cases.  The NC Housing Coalition designs and coordinates outreach and education in support of the project by holding community forums to educate consumers, link them with legal advocates and engage community members in articulating policy solutions.

“Without the vision and leadership of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the foreclosure and economic crisis in our state would be much worse,” said George Hausen, LANC’s executive director.  “Foreclosures in North Carolina are up nearly 200% over the past few years, and the Foundation’s enlightened understanding of the problem and its scope has enabled us to help thousands of families who otherwise faced financial ruin and homelessness."

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation was established in 1936 and has given more than $366 million in grants to projects in all 100 North Carolina counties.  The Foundation now gives special attention to the following focus areas:  community economic development; democracy and civic engagement; environment; pre-collegiate education; and social justice and equity.  For additional information about the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, visit its website, www.zsr.org.

Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to eligible, low-income people in all 100 counties in North Carolina through its 24 geographically located offices in North Carolina.  For additional information about LANC, visit LANC's website, www.legalaidnc.org.

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CONTACTS:
Hazel M. Mack (Project Director, Home Defense Project; Senior Managing Attorney, LANC), Winston-Salem, NC, 336-725-9162
 
George Hausen (Executive Director, LANC), Raleigh, NC, 919-856-2564
 
Dock Kornegay (Director, Public Relations & Development, LANC), Raleigh, NC, 919-856-2564

 


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Mission Statement

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity.

 

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