Since its start in early January, the California Housing Finance Agency’s Keep Your Home California program has helped more than 5,000 homeowners keep their homes. With July being its biggest volume month to date, program director Diane Richardson hopes to reach out in greater numbers and encourage struggling individuals and families to not give up on their homes.
“I think a lot of people are in a situation where they originally went to their bank and they didn’t get really far, so they’re afraid that we’re just going to tell them no,” Richardson said. “We’ve really been encouraging people to make one more call, and that you really have nothing to lose. This could be the one that works for you.”
Keep Your Home California is a federally funded program to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. California has received nearly $2 billion in federal funding, and the program works with housing counselors and servicers to provide assistance that will help prevent avoidable foreclosures and keep individuals in their homes.
Signal Hill Redevelopment Manager Elise McCaleb describes the program as a way of helping people while they look for employment and get their incomes up. “Foreclosures create a huge problem for the City, and I think the program will be beneficial in keeping people in their homes,” McCaleb said.
The Keep Your Home California program is broken down into four subprograms: the Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program, Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program, Principal Reduction Program, and Transition Assistance Program. The programs assist low- to moderate-income homeowners whose mortgage loan may be delinquent or in imminent default.
“The goal for the Unemployment Assistance Program is to take the pressure of losing their homes off unemployed people’s shoulders so they can focus on getting a job, and not have to make a decision about paying their mortgage, or feeding their kids, or putting gas in the car to go look for a job,” Richardson said.
The Mortgage Reinstatement Program assists homeowners who have an economic hardship or are dealing with something that has affected their ability to make a mortgage payment. The program is designed for long-term sustainability, and as long as the borrower stays in the home and keeps their loan current for three years,, the loan is forgiven.
“We will pay up to $15,000 to help a borrower bring their loan current if they can demonstrate that they can sustain their payments going forward,” Richardson said.
For individuals who owe more than their home is currently worth, the Principal Reduction Program will reduce principal balances and require the loan servicer or investor to match dollar for dollar to bring the principal balance down.
“Our goal is to bring people down to a more sustainable affordable payment. We’re hoping to get people down to about 31 percent, so their payment doesn’t exceed 31 percent of their income,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to give them a reason to see that it’s worth it for them to stay in that home and in that neighborhood.”
Still, many individuals have no other option but to face foreclosure, and under the transition assistance program, individuals are given resources to help them with their move. Robertson said the program was developed after meeting with housing counselors who saw that there was a need to help people move forward. If the homeowner is able to do a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure program, he or she could be eligible for up to $5,000 in transition assistance funding.
Richardson said the areas they receive most calls from are Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Bernardino, and that they are constantly looking at the hardest hit areas. She anticipates that it will take three years to get all the funds out; her goal is to get them out sooner.
In the coming months, Richardson hopes to amp up statewide marketing efforts so more people know about Keep Your Home California, and try to contact any place people might turn to when they need help. Her team sent out press releases to every city and county last month, which directly shows in their volume spike. It’s an effort she describes as important and very valuable because people look to their cities for good information.
“They just see it as a lifeline. A lot of them are just so discouraged and really on the verge of giving up,” Richardson said. “There are a lot of people that just really love their homes and want to stay there, and they’re very grateful for the opportunity to do that.”
Homeowners interested in checking if they qualify for assistance or seeking further information about any of the programs can call (888) 954-5337 or visit keepyourhomecalifornia.org.