California's economy and housing market are improving, but believing that we're in the fast lane on the road to recovery is optimistic. We likely have a testing ride ahead, with a few more curves and speed bumps.
Certainly, the housing market is stabilizing and has demonstrated the best price gains in recent years but foreclosures and short sales are still high.
Keep Your Home California a $2 billion, federally funded mortgage assistance program started in February 2011 has been one of the keys to helping the housing market recover. The state-run program assists homeowners facing financial hardships such as a job loss, a reduction in hours at work, extraordinary medical bills or even a divorce to keep up with their mortgage payments.
Keep Your Home California has helped keep the "American Dream" of homeownership alive for 22,000 families since 2011. There are four programs, each aimed to help struggling low- to moderate- income homeowners. Eligibility is based on numerous factors, including county-by-county income requirements and the participation of mortgage servicers.
The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program offers as much as $3,000 per month for up to nine months for out-of-work homeowners approved to receive jobless benefits from the state Employment Development Department.
Homeowners who are experiencing a financial hardship and owe more than their home is worth can get a maximum of $100,000 from the Principal Reduction Program to reduce the principal balance owed and lower their monthly payments.
As much as $25,000 is available to help homeowners catch up on their payments under the Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program.
For homeowners who have come to the difficult decision that a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or short sale may be their best or only option, the Transition Assistance Program can provide up to $5,000 to help them with their move and to start over.
Keep Your Home California is designed to help struggling homeowners, but the program's benefits stretch far beyond a single household. Abandoned homes are bad for everyone, from next-door neighbors concerned about their home values and crime to local governments losing revenue from a reduction in property and sales-tax revenues.
Keep Your Home California has assisted more than 22,000 homeowners, with $260 million since February 2011. We want to help many more.
The program will help about 80,000 homeowners about the equivalent of everyone in Redding, Santa Monica, Merced or Santa Barbara by 2017, when it's scheduled to end and the remaining funds return to the Federal Treasury.
Our primary mission is to approve and help financially distressed California homeowners avoid foreclosure. We want to assist these homeowners as soon as we can, so we can further ease the rate of foreclosures and help bring about a statewide recovery today.
If you're struggling with your mortgage payments and worried about remaining in your home, please check the Keep Your Home California website, www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org, or call (888) 954-5337 to see if you qualify for one of the programs. The processing center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Virtually any language can be accommodated.
Cappio is executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency, which manages Keep Your Home California.
WHO WAS HELPED?
430 homeowners ... $4.46 million
156 homeowners ... $1.5 million
San Joaquin County
430 homeowners ... $8.07 million
Source: CaliforniaHousing Finance Agency