Free, state-run program has assisted more than 55,000 homeowners
When a big bank closed a local service center, Edith and dozens of other employees who owned homes were suddenly without work and wondered how to keep their homes.
Cash-strapped homeowner Carrie and her husband got behind on their mortgage payments when he lost his construction job.
Frank battled health issues and hefty medical expenses, and, to make matters worse, his longtime employer closed the plant where he worked. His one-time affordable mortgage was now an impossible-to-make payment.
Keep Your Home California—the state’s free mortgage-assistance program — has helped all three and more than 55,000 other financially struggling low- to moderate-income homeowners during the past four years.
Recent changes to multiple Keep Your Home California programs have made it easier than ever for homeowners to qualify for assistance. The program began helping homeowners in February 2011, after the state received almost $2 billion from the U.S. Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. To date, more than 55,000 households have received $1.1 billion in assistance. Hundreds of millions of dollars remain available to homeowners, who are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.
“This is truly changing our life, changing our future and rescuing my family and our home,” said Carrie, who was able to catch up on her mortgage payments thanks to Keep Your Home California. “Words can’t express our gratitude for what has been done for us. We feel like this is a fresh start for us.”
Much has changed with the economy in recent years, but there are many homeowners who continue to benefit from the program. About one of every 12 mortgages in the state are with homeowners who owe more than the value of their home, and 1.2 million Californians are still without work.
“Despite a better economy and job market, there are still many homeowners who are faced with numerous challenges, from catching up on their mortgage payments to finding work,” said Tia Boatman Patterson, Executive Director of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), which oversees the state-run program. “We’re just as committed today as in the first days of the program to helping California homeowners prevent avoidable foreclosures.”
Keep Your Home California has four programs to help homeowners who are experiencing struggles with their first mortgage:
• Principal Reduction Program: Homeowners who owe more than their home is worth and/or have an unaffordable monthly payment can receive as much as $100,000 to lower their principal balance – and reduce their monthly mortgage payments.
• Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program: Out-of-work homeowners eligible for jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department can receive as much as $3,000 per month in mortgage assistance for up to 18 months, or a total of $54,000.
• Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: Homeowners who are behind two months or more on their payments could receive as much as $54,000 to help them “catch up” on their past-due mortgage payments. Homeowners must have recovered from their financial hardship and be able to make their mortgage payments going forward in order to be eligible for the program.
• Transition Assistance Program: Homeowners who have reached an agreement with their mortgage servicer for a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or a short sale could receive up to $5,000 in relocation assistance.
Keep Your Home California also launched the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, which provides low and moderate income senior homeowners assistance to avoid foreclosure. Senior homeowners who are at risk of losing their home to foreclosure due to delinquent property expenses associated with their Federal Housing Administration-insured reverse mortgages could qualify for up to $25,000. The pilot program started in February 2015.
Regardless of the program used, a vast majority of homeowners are pleased with Keep Your Home California And 93 percent of homeowners still own their homes two years after receiving assistance from the program.
“My house was underwater, I just couldn’t make it,” said Frank, who battled cancer, health care bills and a handful of mortgage servicers in an effort to refinance his mortgage “I got behind on all of my bills. I had to choose every month what bills to pay. I tried to refinance, but they weren’t willing to restructure the loan.”
Then, he qualified for assistance from the Keep Your Home California Principal Reduction Program, knocking off almost $50,000 from his outstanding balance and saving him $300 per month.
In order to qualify, homeowners must meet program eligibility requirements, including having suffered a financial hardship – such as a job loss, cut in pay, a divorce, a death in the family or extraordinary medical expenses – and meet county-by-county income requirements.
A homeowner’s mortgage servicer, the company that collects the monthly payment, must participate in the program. About 240 mortgage servicers, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase, are enrolled in Keep Your Home California.
“I was so happy, I cried,” says Edith, who was able to attend school for several months while the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program paid her monthly mortgage. The single mother recently completed a degree program and has found a county government position in Northern California. Keep Your Home California has “made my life easier, better.”
And there are many other homeowners who could benefit from the program.
Homeowners are encouraged to visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org for more information on the programs or call 888-954-KEEP (5337) to speak with a representative. The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available at no cost in virtually any language.