JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages can ask the federal government for financial help starting today. Florida Housing has launched a statewide program called Hardest-Hit Fund, which helps unemployed or underemployed homeowners in Florida.
The online program launched at 9 a.m. on Monday, and is available in all 67 counties in Florida. Homeowners have to apply online and qualify for the loan assistance, which can end up being up to six months of monthly mortgage payments including escrow.
Florida Housing released a statement saying the program was announced in February, 2010, by the U.S. Department of Treasury to provide "federal funding to states hardest hit by the aftermath of the burst of the housing bubble." It said 18 states and the District of Columbia have received $7.6 billion, with Florida's allocation standing at $1 billion.
The goal is to help homeowners sustain and keep their homes, helping them to avoid foreclosure.
Two programs are available through Florida Housing: Unemployed Mortgage Assistance Program and Mortgage Loan Reinstatement Program.
Each program has different qualifications for the homeowner.
An eligible homeowner:
- Must be a Florida resident
- Must occupy property as primary residence (the property cannot be vacant, abandoned or rented)
- Borrower/co-borrower must be unemployed or underemployed through no fault of his/her own, which makes the first mortgage unaffordable
- Must have documented total household income at or below 140% of the area median income (AMI), adjusted for household size
- Must have an active checking/savings account that can be debited by the ACH method of funds transfer
- May not have unencumbered assets of $5,000 or more, or three times the current monthly mortgage payment (whichever is greater)
- Cannot have a bankruptcy that has not been discharged or dismissed
- Cannot have been convicted of a mortgage-related felony in the last 10 years
The current mortgage:
- Must be serviced by a participating lender, who agrees to accept payments on behalf of the homeowner
- Must not be more than 180 days past due at the time of application
- Must have been originated on or before January 1, 2009
- Must have an existing principal balance of less than $400,000
"Recognizing that home ownership is vital to building and maintaining stable communities, NEFAR (Northeast Florida Association of Realtors) applauds efforts to keep families in their homes, particularly as opposed to increasing the number of foreclosures and short sales already in today's market," said Dane Leslie, 2011 NEFAR President.
Wealth Watchers, Inc. at 1225 W. Beaver Street is helping homeowners fill out the online application. It is also letting homeowners use it's computers for free. The assistance at the center runs until Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call (904) 380-0292.
"What I am hearing is that Internet access is one of the two budget line items that homeowners have had to do away with, just to stay afloat," said Carrie Davis of Wealth Watchers, Inc.
Davis said some homeowners were lined up outside the doors on Monday as early as 5:30 a.m.
Homeowner Tiffany Johnson was there at 8:30 a.m. She is behind on her mortgage and said the program launched as just the right time.
"It means I get to keep my home, and that's all I really care about," said Johnson. "I'll pay whatever I can pay to keep my house."
First Coast News