Foreclosure Assistance Kicks Off Statewide

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

Tallahassee, FL - A $1 billion program aimed at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure kicked off Monday, though it is less ambitious than originally proposed.

The Florida Housing Corp. began taking applications Monday morning for the federally funded program that will provide nearly 40,000 unemployed and underemployed homeowners with up to six months of cash assistance to make payments on mortgages that would otherwise go unpaid.

Created by the U.S. Treasury in February 2010, the Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest-Hit Housing Markets sets aside funds from the 2008 federal stimulus package to five states: Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada, states with the highest levels of foreclosures. The program was later expanded to 18 states. Florida’s cut to date is $1 billion of nearly $9 billion in federal funds.

Florida is the last state of five original recipients to get its program underway. The program was rolled out last year in Lee County as a pilot. The region was the epicenter of a housing bust resulting in thousands of foreclosures.

“For the homeowners who qualify, this temporary relief from their mortgage payments will provide some ‘breathing room’ so they can focus on becoming re-employed at a level that will allow them to resume making payments on their own,” said Steve Auger, executive director of Florida Housing Finance Corp.

Florida’s original program would have provided as much as $35,000 in assistance over an 18 month period for homeowners who were looking for work and behind on their mortgages. After taking office, however, Gov. Rick Scott ordered a review of the program and changed its parameters.

The new program reduced the maximum award up to $12,000 and shortens the duration of benefits, which advocates said could reduce the program’s effectiveness for recipients whose job search takes longer to complete, as Florida’s economy recovers more slowly than other states.

The program also offers up to $6,000 for residents who have gone back to work to pay delinquent mortgage payments.

“Shortening it to six months is going to create more of a challenge,” said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition. But, she said, “the coalition is going to do everything it can to make the program a success.”

About 70 agencies are assisting in outreach efforts including local SHIP offices, non-profit groups and for-profit companies.

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  • by Mary Baggett Location: Tallahassee, Fl on Apr 20, 2011 at 08:27 AM
    Thank you WCTV.TV for this story! Mary Baggett
  • by KC on Apr 19, 2011 at 02:37 PM
    They should just hand the money over directly to the banks- they are the only ones who will benefit from this. The homeowners (or soon to be ex homeowners) will still not be able to pay their mortgages after they stop receiving the help and the banks will still foreclose.
    • reply
      by anonymous on Apr 25, 2011 at 10:09 AM in reply to KC
      Are you one of the people who took advantage of the banks lowering their criteria for someone to qualify to purchase a home above your income ratio? Those people knew exactly what they were doing and shame on the banks for letting it happen and making money. If you cannot make the house payment then move out of the house. I just paid my tax bill and it angers me that my money will go to pay for a home that some young, arrogant, spoiled young adults cannot afford on their own.
  • by Cynthia Location: TLH on Apr 19, 2011 at 09:45 AM
    I thought the idea was to cut gov't handouts. I've lived within my means so, of course, I don't qualify for the "help". I'm just expected to pay for it. NO MORE HANDOUTS!
  • by Jan Location: Tallahassee on Apr 19, 2011 at 09:14 AM
    Why do people try to live beyond their means? Living in homes they can't afford, buying vehicles, clothes and every new gadget known to man. It's a shame that living within one's income has become an embarassment.
  • by TRUTH HURTS on Apr 19, 2011 at 08:02 AM
    What about us responsible home owners who didn't make stupid decisions with buying a home we couldn't afford? What about us who can pay our mortgages on-time? The irresponsible and down on their luck get the assistance, the rest of us just deal. PATHETIC.
  • by leon Location: tally on Apr 18, 2011 at 10:44 PM
    For those still just barely holding on, anything will be a help, but it's too late for so many others. We can't blame Rick Scott for the program starting so far behind the curve, I'm not sure even who would be to blame. As for limiting the per-incident assistance award, I'll make a guess here: There might be a case for helpin homeowners by reducing the per-incident award. It may also force the issue of homes that are really too far upside-down in values, or far too delinquent, or both, to serve any real purpose in trying to rescue these mortgages (short of cramming down the principle to bring it back in alignment with foreseeable market values). There may be another 9% of foreclosures waiting before mkt equilibrium is met. My folks recall the 1926 real estate crash in Miami from the real estate bubble & crash after the Storm of 1926, and it wasn't as bad as this. Half of Franklin county is vacant, same goes for Destin area - Naples & Ft. Myers have 33% vacancies. Sad, sad.
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