The good news, a long awaited program designed to help distressed homeowners in some states has started after more than a year of anticipation. On, Monday, June 20, 2011, the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) introduced the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP). The program has the mission of helping homeowners, at risk of foreclosure, pay a portion of their mortgage payments.
The bad news, the $1 billion program will only help about 30,000 homeowners, in 27 states. That works out to about 1,111 homeowners, on average, for each state eligible for the program. According to a recent New York Times article, more than two million Americans are in foreclosure. Another two million homeowners teeter on the edge of losing their homes.
The states designated to participate in the federal government's latest attempt to help struggling homeowners are as follow:
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. EHLP also applies to eligible homeowners in Puerto Rico.
To qualify for the program, homeowners will have to meet certain government criteria. Homeowners who have experience a loss of income, whether through unemployment, underemployment, economic conditions or other hardships, such as a medical mishap, may qualify for assistance.
Five other states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, received federal funds earmarked for the same purpose a few months earlier. These states gained the approval to administer the program directly in their jurisdictions because they already had similar operations.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act authorizes HUD to allocate money to states that have an existing program that already offers similar help to distressed homeowners. Various non-profit organizations and state agencies will administer the program. EHLP provides homeowners a declining balance “bridge loan.” Following are the details of the program:
- Zero percent interest rate
- Non-recourse loan
- Subordinate loan
- Up to a maximum of $50,000
Homeowners can use the funds to pay their mortgage, interest, mortgage insurance, property taxes, and hazard insurance for a period not to exceed two years. As a non-recourse loan, if a borrower fails to repay the loan, the government can only collect the outstanding balance by foreclosing on the property used as collateral.
In the event of a foreclosure, Uncle Sam has a subordinate loan interest. This means, the government receives its money from foreclosure proceeds only after payment of the first lien, such as a first mortgage, and other priority liens.
Non-profit organizations involved with EHLP consist of housing counselors who work with the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program run by NeighborWorks® America. These entities will organize and coordinate intake counseling, preparation of documents, and conduct outreach activities.
A homeowner must have a mortgage payment delinquency of a minimum of three months. A borrower must also have the “reasonable likelihood” of being able to return to paying the mortgage payment and other expenses associated with housing with 24 months. The property must serve as the principal residence of the borrower. In addition, the person must have demonstrated a “good payment record” before the condition that led to the loss of income.
Expect a rush on the limited funds, as desperate homeowners scramble to try to save their homes. Homeowners must complete the pre-application screening workshop by July 22, 2011 - the deadline for applications. The selection process operates like a lottery because it selects qualified homeowners at random
Other Programs for Distressed Homeowners
Recently, Congress canceled or allowed several programs designed to help distressed homeowners to expire. Nonetheless, Uncle Sam does have a few other mortgage refinance programs, which may help homeowners underwater or delinquent in their mortgages:
- Hardest Hit Fund - Originally approved for states that experienced 209 percent or greater decline in value of home prices. Eligible homeowners in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina. The Housing Finance Agency of each state administers the program.
- Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) - Expires December 31, 2012, helps homeowners modify their mortgages to make payment more affordable. Contact your lender to start the application process.
- Making Homes Affordable – This loan modification program expires June 30, 2011. You must refinance your mortgage and close or fund the transaction before that date.
Be aware, many of these programs have received harsh criticisms because they have not helped as many homeowners as expected. In addition, check with your state to find out about any programs the state may fund, which help homeowners at risk or experiencing foreclosure.