Microsoft Powers Pace-Setting Boston Foreclosure Prevention Campaign

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Urban Edge Housing Corporation
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Organization's Mission Statement

Urban Edge's mission is to help develop and sustain stable, healthy and diverse communities.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Microsoft Powers Pace-Setting Boston Foreclosure Prevention CampaignUrban Edge is a minority-controlled community development corporation founded in 1974 to help develop and sustain stable, healthy and diverse communities. In 2006 Urban Edge responded to the spike in foreclosures in Boston by initiating a foreclosure prevention program and joining a collaborative of 5 nonprofits to work with the City of Boston.


From 2007 and into 2009 the crisis escalated and the number of Boston nonprofits providing free foreclosure prevention services doubled from 5 to 10. Despite the increase in providers, the demand for Urban Edge’s services continued to grow as word spread about the effectiveness of its program.

  • In 2006, only 11 clients came to Urban Edge, so foreclosure counseling was provided by current staff.
  • In 2007 a full-time Foreclosure Prevention Specialist was added, and 140 homeowners sought services that year.
  • In 2008 the caseload doubled, to 281.
  • In just the first four months of 2009, intakes numbered 159.

Clients have come from 14 Boston neighborhoods and another 60 cities and towns. Urban Edge adopted a customer-focused approach and never turned anyone away. Because of this policy Urban Edge was compelled to build the systems and the staff to meet the growing demand.


In March 2008 Urban Edge was overwhelmed with homeowners in need of services but lacked electronic means to manage data for a program that was working so well. Records were kept on spreadsheets and in paper files and processing became unmanageable. To solve this problem, the Foreclosure Prevention Specialist developed an Access database to integrate an information management system with the foreclosure prevention process.


Because the database was built by a counselor it was designed to meet the needs of counselors, mortgage servicers, bankers and homeowners. It supports the counseling and banking requirements as a homeowner moves through the foreclosure prevention process. It is a robust system which has had very little down time in over a year and has allowed Urban Edge to train new staff and to increase productivity, month after month.


Urban Edge trained and deployed a college intern in the summer of 2008 to help with the growing workload, then hired him as a regular employee. In January 2009, Urban Edge added two law student interns to its staff, then a third in April. They had a one-day training by the FDIC, and now get ongoing on-the-job training while working part-time for one year. The program was further strengthened this spring by two volunteers from the First Church in Boston.


The training track for the interns and volunteers uses the Urban Edge processes from intake to conclusion. Counselors enroll new homeowners and help them acquire the skills to negotiate the best workout options to retain their homes or to exit their homes under the most favorable terms possible. Microsoft database and other programs enabled Urban Edge to increase its client service capacity and to manage growth.


Counselors use the in-house information management system (attached), and issue quarterly outcome and demographics reports to all funders. Urban Edge is now improving the reporting aspect of the database. Solid reporting permits objective comparison of outcomes to goals to determine the capacity and effectiveness needed to meet the requirements of funders and to make informed resource plans.


In-house systems record all client data: contact dates, referral source, race, ethnicity, gender, age, marital status, household makeup, education level, employment, primary language and legal status. The intake form is linked to information sheets from the referral agency, to follow-up forms and to the client’s contract for services and authorization forms. A client action plan is developed by the client and the counselor. Household income and expense data inform a budgeting strategy, resolution options are determined, and the action plan is pursued. The client, the counselor and management can track the progress and outcomes of the action plan. The Community Programs Director aggregates counselors’ progress and outcome information and adjusts staff deployment, productivity goals, training and support needs.


Urban Edge uses one-on-one counseling because it is customer-focused and it yields measurable results. Counselors and clients reach a range of favorable outcomes including loan modifications, refinancing agreements, reinstatements, forbearance agreements, repayment plans and bankruptcy protection. Counseling alone is effective for about a quarter of the clients, who take the knowledge they gain and achieve favorable outcomes themselves. Microsoft Office Suite 2003 software applications are the underpinnings of both one-on-one counseling and self-help.


To meet the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Counseling-Foreclosure Intervention Specialty and its Code of Ethics and Conduct, Urban Edge closely tracks and monitors the training of all of its counselors. It schedules annual training for its employees to achieve HUD standards for Foreclosure Counseling. Two of the counselors have received Advanced Foreclosure Prevention training and one has been certified and is going on to be trained in reverse mortgage counseling.


Staff members, interns and volunteers take full responsibility for the homeowners they enroll. This includes intake, budgeting, contacting servicers, assisting with hardship letters, completing all data entry required to meet reporting requirements and providing support services in cases of unsuccessful outcomes. New counselors are supported by experienced staff and by group debriefing meetings, followed by on-the-job coaching on specific problems and needs.


With staff, interns and volunteers using Microsoft software, Urban Edge is now able to serve more than 3 times as many homeowners. Technological innovations and continuous improvements of operational efficiencies in file management, data retrieval and shared access to client data have been the keys to capacity-building. Paired with regular training of staff, then interns, then volunteers, these efficiencies make it possible for Urban Edge to keep pace with the foreclosure crisis, for hundreds more families to keep their homes, and for the community to avoid the decreases in property values and the increases in crime traced to foreclosures.


With the help of Urban Edge I was able to negotiate a one year loan modification. I now have a 6% interest rate, down from 10.45%, which is saving me $1,700 per month in mortgage payments.

-- Homeowner, Jamaica Plain, MA, October 2008


About a year and a half ago I began to have problems paying my mortgage. I heard about Urban Edge from a friend of mine. I went to Urban Edge right away and it was the best thing I did. They have kept a roof over my head. They are very patient and know what needs to be done.

-- Homeowner, Dorchester, MA, November 2008

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