Borrowers facing difficulty making their mortgage payments will be urged to call their lenders in a TV, radio, print and Internet public awareness campaign produced by NeighborWorks America and the Ad Council.

The public service announcements — which cost about $1 million to produce — urge homeowners in financial trouble to call a hotline maintained by the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, 888-995-HOPE.

The announcements were paid for by lenders who stand to lose $30,000 on every mortgage they are forced to foreclose on. With some estimates predicting that more than 1 million homes will enter the foreclosure process this year, the cost to lenders could approach $30 billion, NeighborWorks estimates.

According to research by government-sponsored mortgage repurchaser Freddie Mac, half of families who end up in foreclosure never call their lenders for help.

For lenders, funding the production of the announcements — and counselors who advise troubled borrowers — “is a public service, as well a business decision,” Doug Robinson, a spokesman for NeighborWorks, told Inman News.

The Homeownership Preservation Foundation says the hotline is currently getting more than 500 callers a day. The public service announcements are intended to boost calls to the hotline and put more families in touch with their lenders and financial counselors.

Current statewide campaigns by NeighborWorks’ Center for Foreclosure Solutions are credited with boosting calls to the 888-995-HOPE hotline from about 700 per month in July 2006 to nearly 15,000 this month.

The spots will run on stations around the country beginning in July. How many people see them depends on how many media outlets agree to run the free public service announcements.

NeighborWorks has partnerships with 236 nonprofits around the country, Robinson said, whose members will make pitches to TV and radio broadcasters, as well as print and Internet media outlets.

“You don’t just post them on the satellite and hope it gets pulled down for TV and radio,” Robinson said. “You make personal pitches to the stations manager and ad manager.”

The television spots — also available as QuickTime videos for viewing over the Internet — are shot in stark black and white. In one, a family is gathered around the dinner table, laughing and talking. When the phone starts ringing, the laughter stops. Nobody moves to answer it.

“Every year, 1 million families face losing their homes to foreclosure,” the narrator intones. “If you’re ignoring your mortgage issues, things will only get worse. Call 888-995-HOPE. Because nothing is worse than doing nothing.”

Robinson said the public service announcements are part of a three-year public awareness campaign. New ads may be produced as needed if more money becomes available from NeighborWorks’ partners.

“We’re continuing to look for new supporters,” Robinson said. “If you talk to the Mortgage Bankers Association or the Center for Responsible Lending, anyone will tell you the foreclosure problem has not peaked.”

The list of partners in NeighborWorks’ Center for Foreclosure Solutions reads like a who’s who of mortgage lending. It includes Countrywide Home Loans, Washington Mutual, Bank of America, Option One Mortgage Corp., Chase, Citi, EMC Mortgage Corp., GMAC ResCap, HSBC North America, Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, National City Mortgage, American Financial Services and SunTrust Mortgage.

Government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also partners, as well as the law firm Barrett Burke Wilson Castle Daffin & Frappier LLP, and industry groups like the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Housing Policy Council.

In addition to conducting public outreach campaigns, the NeighborWorks Center for Foreclosure Solutions helps counseling centers around the nation build their staffs. The Center has launched foreclosure prevention initiatives in Ohio, Georgia, Delaware, Baltimore, and St. Louis, and plans dozens of similar local and state initiatives that will “leverage the influence” of the Ad Council campaign, the group said in a press release.

NeighborWorks America provides financial support, technical assistance and training to nearly 4,500 communities nationwide through a network of 236 nonprofit organizations. The group claims its members have generated more than $12 billion in reinvestment in the last five years, helping more than 845,000 families purchase or improve their homes, or obtain rental or mutual housing.

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