COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Homeowners facing foreclosure often need help, and fast. The goal of the "Ohio Hardest Hit Fund, Restoring Stability: A Save the Dream Ohio Initiative," is to provide that kind of help.
Twelve Ohio State University Extension educators and program coordinators are taking part in the program to help ensure that assistance reaches rural Ohio. The program is administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), a state agency that works to make affordable housing opportunities available to low- and moderate-income Ohioans. Restoring Stability utilizes federal support from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for Hardest-Hit Markets to assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
"It's a complicated federal program, and so there needs to be a screening of homeowners before they apply for emergency help," said Cäzilia Loibl, family financial management specialist with OSU Extension. "Homeowners upload documents online, and we look them over and contact the homeowners within a few days. Often, there are documents that are missing or we need additional information. We talk them through the four different kinds of help that are available, and then we make an action plan for them. Then we submit it all to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency to make the final decision."
The initiative offers four programs that provide financial assistance for homeowners struggling to make monthly mortgage payments due to job loss or other hardship. The programs include:
- Rescue Payment Assistance, for homeowners who are facing a financial hardship and have already missed one or more mortgage payments. This program will provide an interest-free loan to help bring the mortgage current; the loan will be forgiven over five years as long the home isn't refinanced or sold within that time (if it is, the loan is to be repaid with the net proceeds of the sale).
- Partial Mortgage Payment Assistance, for homeowners who are unemployed and are unable to afford their mortgage payments. Because people who are unemployed are normally not eligible for loan modifications, this program will help by paying up to 75 percent of the current total monthly payment. Homeowners pay the remaining amount. Again, the payment is in the form of an interest-free loan forgiven after five years as long as the home isn't refinanced or sold in that time. If the home is sold, the loan is to be repaid with the net proceeds of the sale.
- Modification Assistance with Principal Reduction, for people who are "upside-down" on their mortgage -- owing more than the house is currently worth. This program provides an incentive to mortgage servicers to reduce the principal owed down to a level necessary to allow the homeowner to be eligible for a loan modification. Payments are interest-free loans, forgiven after five years as long as the homeowner does not sell or refinance within that time.
- Transitional Assistance, which provides an incentive to mortgage servicers to complete a short sale (allowing the owner to sell the home for less than what is owed on it) or deed-in-lieu agreement as an alternative to foreclosure. These options reduce the negative impact on a homeowner’s credit rating and also reduces the loss to the mortgage servicer. The Transitional Assistance program is ideal when staying in the home is not the best option for a homeowner.
Loibl, who is also a scientist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and an assistant professor of consumer sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology, said the Extension staff has committed to help at least 500 homeowners by the end of 2012 -- a substantial number for one agency, though as many as 50,000 Ohioans could get assistance from the statewide program. The Restoring Stability program is being funded with $570 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury's Hardest-Hit Fund.
More details about the programs are available on the Restoring Stability website, http://www.ohiohome.org/restoringstability/.
Information about which county offices of OSU Extension offer assistance is available at http://fcs.osu.edu/cs/house-counseling.php.