As foreclosures continue to stack up in Macon County and surrounding areas, one federal government agency is reaching out to citizens to offer help. Everett Stiles, who provides Foreclosure Prevention Outreach Services for the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, attended October’s meeting of Macon County’s Board of Commissioners to inform citizens of government funding geared toward foreclosure prevention.
According to Stiles, North Carolina homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage may be eligible to receive financial assistance through government funding. The N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund is now available through HUD-approved concealing agencies to help homeowners who are struggling due to job loss or temporary financial hardship caused by no fault of their own, such as divorce or illness.
Commissioners noted the importance of the Fund throughout the state, especially in Macon County. “We want to make residents aware of all avenues they can take to help them keep their home,”said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “I am sure that eventually the funds will be depleted, so we want to encourage any citizen at risk to contact the program as soon as possible.”
“We want to do anything we can to save someone’s house from getting foreclosed on,” said Commissioner Ron Haven. “I don’t see the economy turning around any time soon, and to be quite honest, our citizens cannot wait and it is our responsibility to take care of them.”
The N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund is offered by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, a self-supporting state agency, and funded through the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. The Treasury’s ‘Hardest Hit Fund’ is authorized under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and is designed to make mortgage payments for qualified unemployed workers while they seek jobs or complete job training in a new field.
The Fund, which is available in 18 states throughout the country, offers assistance within the state and is working toward helping more citizens. “In Macon County, we’ve had over 25 families approved for the program; In Jackson County the number is six,” said Stiles. “Efforts are ongoing to get the word out to banks and other parties that might be in contact with prospective recipients.”
Commissioner Haven, who owns several motels in the county, said that he has several families who have lost their homes due to foreclosure staying at his motels. “I am ready to try anything that works to help out our citizens,” said Haven. “I have several families living in my motels, and no family should have to do that. One family, a man, woman and three children are having to live in one room. It is a shame that it has come to this and I want to do anything I can to help them, so I let them stay there and don’t charge them anything so they can get back on their feet.”
Haven is optimistic that the Prevention Fund will begin to help families in the county. “I want to see something like this work, and I think it can help our citizens here in Macon County,” he said.
Citizens may be eligible for assistance through one of three programs offered under the Foreclosure Prevention Fund. The Mortgage Payment Program provides zero-interest loans of up to $24,000 for a maximum of 24 months. Homeowners in the state’s “hardest hit” counties may qualify for up to $36,000 over 36 months. The Second Mortgage Refinance Program helps employed homeowners who cannot afford payments on their second mortgage.
According to Commissioner Beale, the Prevention Fund is a critical tool to help stabilize a stagnant economy. “We can not just sit by and watch our families and neighbors hurt because of foreclosure,” said Beale. “Programs like this is exactly what we need to give citizens that little extra support and encouragement when they need it most. No one can do it alone, and it’s our job to help in every way we can.”
After the assistance period ends, homeowners will resume making their own mortgage payments but if the owner continues to live in the home for 10 years, the loan will be considered satisfied and no repayment will be due.
Eligible homeowners apply for these programs through participating housing counseling agencies located across the state. Even if you do not qualify for help through the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, a counselor may be able to direct you to other sources of help.
OnTrack Financial Education & Counseling is the regional agency administering the program for WNC. OnTrack’s agent, Tom Luzon, has already hosted one workshop for six families in Franklin. “The workshop is basically divided into thirds. The first third covers the Mortgage Payment Protection program, the middle third is where we determine self eligibility, and the last third is the preparation for the application,” said Luzon. “It goes pretty quickly, and has been well received.”
The program workshop is the first, mandatory step in applying for the loan fund. To be eligible, homeowners must have a good mortgage payment history prior to the job loss or hardship, have potential to resume their mortgage -payments once the assistance, ends, and meet other program guidelines.
Future workshops have been scheduled in Franklin on November 12 from 10:30 to 12:30 at Macon Program for Progress, on December 10 from 10:30 to 12:30 at Macon Program for Progress and December 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 at CareNet.
Workshop preregistration is required for future events. For more information about eligibility and preregistration, homeowners should call OnTrack WNC at 828-255-5166 or 1-800-737-5485 or visit the NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund website at www.ncforeclosureprevention.gov.