Mercurion Suladdin considers herself somewhat lucky for managing to avoid losing her house to foreclosure in the midst of one of the worst housing crises in recent history.

Twice in the past five years, foreclosure proceedings had begun on her Sandy home, threatening to make her American dream a nightmare. But the local chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, helped her get the situation in order, after years of frustration and financial difficulties.

"When my home went into foreclosure, I lost all hope, feeling like it was the end of the world," said Suladdin, who has become a member the grass-roots organization. "But through ACORN, I am getting help to save my home. People need to know that there is help available. Don't give up!"

With support of the Utah Attorney General's Office, ACORN is offering free counseling to borrowers facing foreclosure, to help them avoid losing their homes. At a news conference Wednesday in Rose Park, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the state is doing what it can to help during the current mortgage problems, but it can't do it alone.

"A lot of people turn to government when there's a problem like this mortgage crisis we're facing," he said. "That's appropriate, to seek legislation, to have lawsuits and charges brought against companies who have hurt people and inappropriately drawn them into a debt trap so they end up losing their homes."

Shurtleff said he would like to see state lawmakers draft legislation requiring more transparency in lending practices to prevent people from becoming victims to predatory lenders. He also implored mortgage companies and banks to voluntarily work with troubled families to restructure their loans in a way that will enable them to keep their houses.

"I know they want to look at this as a business deal, but this is a crisis, and everybody needs to step up," he said. "Those companies need to step up and say, 'Until we can work through this and get the help people need, we need to stop kicking people out of their homes and do everything we can to keep them in their homes."'

Suladdin said her troubles began in 2003, when she discovered that her mortgage company, Beneficial/Household Finance, had not put her name on the title of her home mortgage. She said after appealing to the attorney general's office and then ACORN, the company began working with her to discontinue foreclosure proceedings and resolve her situation.

Her home was due to be sold on May 22, but after furious negotiations she was able to keep it out of foreclosure. Suladdin said she is still considering further legal action against the company, and her title issues have not been resolved, but she still has her home.

ACORN has developed foreclosure-avoidance workshops to educate troubled borrowers on possible solutions to preventing foreclosure. People who have difficulty making mortgage payments or anticipate problems can call ACORN's foreclosure-prevention hotline at 866-67-ACORN or the Utah ACORN office at 801-532-2225.

Borrowers can speak to counselors with ACORN Housing, an affiliate of ACORN, who mediate with lenders and mortgage-servicing companies on a homeowner's behalf to work out loan modifications to achieve affordable mortgage solutions.


E-mail: jlee@desnews.com