There is, however, a state program that helps stabilize neighborhoods and communities, keeping many financially strapped families in their homes. That program is called Keep Your Home California, which was established under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund. As part of this federal fund, California has almost two billion dollars to help at least 100,000 eligible California homeowners avoid preventable foreclosures. So far, the first-of-its-kind program has helped more than 13,000 California homeowners, each facing a serious financial hardship, including unemployment.
Each of Keep Your Home California’s sub-programs has specific goals and eligibility requirements, but all were established to help families during what has proven to be the most difficult economy since the Great Depression.
The largest and most popular program is the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, which can help pay a mortgage and associated costs of up to $3,000 per month for out-of-work homeowners. This program allows homeowners receiving state jobless benefits to look for work without worrying about their mortgage payments for as long as nine months.
The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program has a maximum of $20,000 available for homeowners to catch up on their mortgage payments. Homeowners must detail a financial hardship and be able to maintain their payments, but for many families this is all the help they may need to stay on track.
The Principal Reduction Program offers as much as $100,000 for homeowners to lower their principal - and their monthly mortgage payments.
The final program - the Transition Assistance Program - gives homeowners who agree to a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale with their servicer as much as $5,000 for relocation costs, such as moving, a few months of rent and a security deposit.
Of course, Keep Your Home California has a number of eligibility requirements, including county-by-county income limits: for example, $90,100 in Sacramento County and $76,800 in Los Angeles County. The home must be a homeowner’s primary residence and a homeowner’s servicer must participate in the program (we have more than 60 participating servicers, covering about 90 percent of the mortgages in the state). Homeowners must also detail their financial hardship, such as a job loss, a cut in pay or unexpected medical bills.
Keep Your Home California’s primary goal is to help struggling homeowners. But the program also benefits homeowners current on their mortgages, neighborhoods dealing with foreclosures and short sales, and the state’s still-sputtering economy. Abandoned homes are bad for everyone, from the next-door neighbor concerned about her home value to local governments enduring much-lower revenue from property tax.
Certainly, this program is not the long-term - or only - answer to solving the economic and housing problems. But by allowing families to stay in their homes, Keep Your Home California helps stabilize communities and can provide hope to many struggling Californians where none exists today.
If you are struggling to remain in your home, please check the Keep Your Home California website - www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org in Spanish - and see if you qualify for one of the programs. Of course, feel free to call the toll-free number to apply or lean more about the program at (888) 954-5337 (KEEP).
Claudia Cappio is executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency.