Syracuse Home Equity Protection Program
Featured in Wall Street Journal Article
February 19, 2004 -- A Syracuse, N.Y., NeighborWorks® organization is capturing
national attention for a program that was created to encourage people to buy homes
and stay in the area. A Feb. 3, 2004 Wall Street Journal article by Daniel Nasaw,
entitled "For Some Home Buyers, a Nice Hedge," focused on a Syracuse home equity
protection program (HEP) administered by Home HeadQuarters, Inc., that protects
more than $4.7 million in home equity against declines in the value of local house
Virginia Smith, coordinator of the program, said the article helped show that "Central
New York is taking tremendous strides in building better neighborhoods and creating
innovative incentives for people who want to live and remain in the area." The
program, she said, was created to give peace of mind to people who want to stay in
their Syracuse homes but are concerned about real estate market values. Currently,
67 homeowners are protected through the program.
Protection is available for between 50 and 150 percent of a home's assessed value
for a one-time fee of 1.5 percent of the value protected. Policyholders who sell their
home after three years receive a payment if the home prices have dropped where
they live. For example, in the case of a homeowner whose $60,000 home was
protected for 100 percent of its value, the program would pay $6,000 if prices
dropped 10 percent in their zip code—even if the home sells for more than $60,000.
By basing the payment on the average home value in their zip code rather than the
selling price and by allowing protection up to 150 percent, owners are encouraged to
improve and maintain their properties.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which founded and supports the
NeighborWorks network, provided financial and in-kind support for the home equity
protection product. Funding for the program's initial capital reserve was provided
through a $5 million federal grant from the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative, a
public-private partnership launched in 1999 to revitalize neighborhoods in Syracuse.
Other program participants include the Yale School of Management, Freddie Mac,
Real Liquidity LLC, and HSBC.
FleetBank recently announced it would pay HEP premiums for Syracuse residents
who obtain home loans through the company. “This new HEP initiative provides a
great opportunity for Syracuse residents,” said Smith. “It is a win-win situation—the
customer receives protection, Fleet receives an added benefit to its lending portfolio,
and Syracuse gains a new homeowner.”