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California opens new doors to keep families in homes

Posted: February 25, 2011 4:08 p.m.
Updated: February 25, 2011 5:00 p.m.
 

With high unemployment and the California real estate values still in the doldrums, the state is taking a new step to prevent foreclosures and stabilize communities.

The new initiative, "Keep Your Home California," includes four new programs to assist homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments and remain in their homes.

Each of these programs is funded by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of its "Hardest Hit Fund," specifically designed to assist states most affected by the foreclosure crisis. California received the largest allocation -- nearly $2 billion -- to help tens of thousands of eligible families.

The programs were designed with the help of housing counselors, housing advocates, mortgage servicing companies and lenders, to maximize the impact of these federal dollars.

The goal of all the programs is to give California families, who are committed to homeownership, the opportunity to avoid a painful foreclosure and to help them remain in their homes.

One facet of the Keep Your Home California program includes the first statewide effort to assist unemployed homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages. While there have been many factors that caused the real estate crisis, one significant problem is that people who have lost their jobs fall behind on their mortgage payments and are unable to remain in their homes.

This assistance, for unemployed homeowners collecting EDD benefits, offers up to $3,000 per month to help pay their mortgages, taxes and insurance for up to six months. Other programs under the Keep Your Home California umbrella help borrowers catch up on back payments and lower the principal balance on mortgages. These programs are for homeowners who have suffered a financial hardship and, due to a decline in real estate values, have a mortgage loan that far exceeds the home's value.

The benefit of Keep Your Home California extends well beyond the families directly impacted. For every family that remains in their home, there is a neighborhood with one less vacant property and a community with one fewer foreclosure or short sale.

When families are able to keep their homes, we all benefit.

Will the Keep Your Home California program reverse the real estate crisis and the unemployment problems facing our state? No.

But this initiative will move us forward in these challenging times, allowing many California families to remain in their homes at a time when perhaps so many other hardships are at their doorstep.

If you are among those struggling to remain in your home, I encourage you to review the Keep Your Home California website -- KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org -- and determine if you qualify for one of our programs.

Even if you've been told "no" dozens of times, you may move into the "yes" category with Keep Your Home California.

Steven Spears is the executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). For 35 years, CalHFA has invested more than $18 billion in non-taxpayer funds to assist 150,000 California individuals and families not only purchase homes, but stay in them with a mortgage they can afford. For more information on Keep Your Home California, visit KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org.

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