Mortgage assistance there for the asking
By Cheryl Truman
If you are an unemployed Kentucky homeowner staring into the abyss of unmade mortgage payments, the Kentucky Housing Corp. would like to hear from you: It has $92 million in unclaimed mortgage assistance.
Let’s repeat that number: $92 million.
“We still do have assistance available,” said Amanda Palmer, a spokeswoman for the corporation, which serves as the state housing finance agency. “We want people to know about it.”
Palmer said that while the housing corporation is pleased with the amount disbursed since the Unemployment Bridge Program began last year, Kentuckians who are unemployed as a result of the recession need to know that there is government help and that it is not charity. Those who are unemployed as a result of other causes, such as disability, are not eligible for the program.
The program’s biggest hurdle is assuring potential participants that it’s for real.
“A lot of people thought it was too good to be true,” Palmer said. “We had to overcome that sense. There’s a lot of scams out there.”
Homeowners can get in touch with the Kentucky Housing Corp. by seeing a local counselor or by applying to the program at its Web site, Kyhousing.org , which Palmer said is faster.
“When they lose their jobs, they may not be in danger of losing their home because they’re using their retirement or some other savings,” Palmer said. “They don’t have to do that.”
The program, funded by the federal government, was started last April with $148.9 million, more than $90 million of which is still available. More than 1,400 Kentucky home owners have been helped.
Kentucky was one of 18 states and the District of Columbia chosen to participate in the program, based on high levels of unemployment and decline in home values.
The program ends Dec. 31, 2017, or when all the money is spent.
Stephanie Givens of Lexington knows how much that assistance can mean. The program helped Givens keep up her mortgage payments while unemployed, which the medical claims processor said took a huge weight off her shoulders.
Givens saw a brochure advertising the program by chance one day while in the unemployment office.
“I had no idea it was going to be as much as they gave me,” she said. “It has taken a tremendous burden off me. Being on unemployment, I didn’t know if I was going to lose my house or not.”
Sandra Wilfong of Lexington, a former accountant for an engineering firm who has been laid off twice, had applied for a loan modification through her mortgage compa ny and was turned down. But her loan officer told her to look into the Kentucky Housing Corp. program.
“She kind of whispered it,” said Wilfong, whose husband is a school bus driver.
Wilfong was shocked when she was approved.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ll be darned,’” she said. “It took two weeks, and they’re paying my mortgage for a year. It’s not embarrassing at all. ... It gives me a year to get a job that is a good job.”
Wilfong said the application was easy to assemble, and her counselor cheerfully aided her through the process.
Bryan Warner of Louisville found out about the program from his parents, who had received a brochure advertising the program in the mail after his father was laid off from the General Electric plant in Lexington.
Warner had just gotten out of the Army and was having trouble finding a job.
He said the program helps stabilize communities by keeping people in their homes.
“It does a lot of people a lot of good,” Warner said. “They know they’re helping people who actually need help.”
Nonetheless, he is pleased to be getting off the program after six months. He has found a job working with an industrial cleaning company and said he was happy to submit his first pay stub to show he is back in the work force.
Robin Allen, a regional manager for Apprisen, which counsels consumers with debt, is one of those who helps Kentucky Housing Corp. in doing the pre-screening.
“A few people have heard about it, but they really don’t think it’s real because it sounds too good to be true,” Allen said.
Even unemployed homeowners who are behind on their payments are eligible, Allen said, as long as the total assistance does not exceed $25,000.
Said Allen: “It is a big relief for everyone to know, ‘I’ve got a year, my mortgage is going to be taken care of.’”
Wilfong praised the Community Ventures Corp. liaison who helped her through the process.
“They look at the simple fact that you are unemployed and need help,” she said. “They are very non-judgmental people.”
Kentucky Housing Corp. Unemployment Bridge Program
The forgivable loan program is for homeowners who, through no fault of their own, have experienced a job loss or reduction in income due to changing economic conditions, and demonstrate a need for assistance. The program is not for job or income loss due to divorce, death or disability. The job loss or reduction of employment income must have occurred within the three years before the date of application.
The maximum assistance is $25,000 or for 12 months, whichever occurs first. Of the $25,000, the maximum amount that may be used for reinstatement — all related fees and payments to bring your loan current — is $7,500.
Participants must meet the following guidelines, and the mortgage must be with one of the program’s more than 200 participating servicers.
• Maximum amount of liens on the property cannot exceed $275,000.
• Maximum of two liens are permitted on the property.
• Borrower’s principal, interest, taxes and insurance, or PITI, must exceed 31 percent of the gross monthly income, or borrower must experience a 15 percent reduction in employment income.
• Maximum liquid reserves is six months PITI (excluding retirement funds).
• Borrowers must sign a hardship affidavit acknowledging the reduction in income is due to no fault of their own.
The program is available only to borrowers whose mortgage servicing company agrees to partner with the Kentucky Housing Corp. A borrower cannot receive assistance if his or her servicer has not enrolled as a participant. To see whether your servicing company is on this list, go to Kyhousing.org.
To contact the housing corporation, call (502) 564-7630 or 1-800-633-8896.
For Lexington-area homeowners, more information is available through the following organizations:
• Community Ventures Corp.: Keysha Cuyler, (859) 231-0054, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Apprisen Financial Advocates, locally known as Consumer Credit Counseling Services: Robin Allen, email@example.com.
• REACH: Chris Ford, (859) 455-8057. firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE: KENTUCKY HOUSING CORP.
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