Bankers Trust Corp. and Industrial Bank of Japan are funding a program to educate homeowners about predatory lending.
Offered by Neighborhood Housing Services of New York, the "Protect Yourself, Protect Your Home" program addresses rising concerns about lenders who entice homeowners to refinance at rates they cannot afford, hoping to profit by foreclosing on and reselling their properties.
The initiative was one of three announced at a regional breakfast meeting of housing agencies hosted by the neighborhood group. It also has started a program through which banks can invest in low- to moderate-income mortgages to earn Community Reinvestment Act credit. The group also said it would open an office in Richmond Hill, N.Y., in space donated by North Fork Bank.
Bankers Trust, which has committed itself to funding the educational program for two years, has been a trustee for Delta Funding, a company accused in the foreclosure scam.
Delta has said it does not profit on foreclosures. Bankers Trust, under fire in the media, has said that as trustee it was not responsible for monitoring Delta's lending practices.
A Bankers Trust spokesman said the company has a decade-long relationship with Neighborhood Housing Services.
Comptroller of the Currency John D. Hawke Jr., speaking at a breakfast meeting, said education is a key to curbing such abuses.
"The lack of information plays directly into the hands of the financial predators," Mr. Hawke said. "Through no fault of their own, (subprime) borrowers can easily become trapped in a financial straitjacket."
The Japanese bank has funded development of the curriculum.
In the new equity investment program, the neighborhood group is offering eight shares of $250,000 each. It is creating securities backed by mortgages that qualify for Community Reinvestment Act credit. Credit enhancements on the notes, including a 5% reserve fund and a guarantee of collateral replacement for defaulting mortgages, minimize risk to participating banks.
Mr. Hawke said more than $2 million of community reinvestment loans have been packaged since late 1997.
"Every dollar taken off the originator's books through securitization is a dollar available for new loans," he said, adding that lending pledges totaling more than $1 trillion for low- and moderate-income housing have been made under the Community Reinvestment Act since 1993.