Many families across the country are struggling to make ends meet. For homeowners who are struggling with their mortgage, or have fallen behind, the threat of foreclosure can be devastating. Foreclosure threatens a family’s stability, and the stability of our neighborhoods.
The Making Home Affordable Program
was designed to help eligible homeowners modify or refinance their mortgage payments to make them more affordable. It gives eligible homeowners an opportunity to get back on track and rebuild their financial future. It is an important part of the Obama Administration’s broader plan to strengthen the housing market and the economy.
More than 650,000 homeowners have already received a mortgage modification under the program, reducing their monthly payments by an average of $640. The program is gaining momentum, but we know that many more homeowners are eligible for help.
Too many of the homeowners we meet at Making Home Affordable events go into foreclosure without ever talking to their mortgage servicer or seeking the help of a housing counselor. They may feel ashamed or afraid to reach out, or are unsure about where to go for help.
Others homeowners are frustrated by the process of trying to work with their mortgage servicer. They may speak to a different customer service representative each time, or are required to submit the same paperwork over and over again.
President Obama said when he launched the program in February that this plan will require both homeowners and lenders to step up and do their part, to take on some responsibility. This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a new campaign that marks unprecedented engagement to hold mortgage servicers accountable for timely decisions and reach out to eligible borrowers to make sure that they understand their responsibilities to get in – and stay in – the program.
One-third of the homeowners currently in trial mortgage modifications under the program are eligible to receive a permanent modification by the end of this month. These homeowners deserve a timely decision from their mortgage servicer. Treasury received plans last week from the country’s biggest servicers that explain how they propose to convert each one of these trial mortgage modifications.
The majority of homeowners in trial plans still owe their servicer paperwork. Thirty-seven percent of homeowners have submitted paperwork that is incomplete. More than twenty percent of homeowners have submitted no paperwork at all. As part of this campaign, Treasury and HUD will be engaging the 2700 HUD-approved housing counseling organizations to reach out to these borrowers.
Homeowners should not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. They do not have to go through this alone. Homeowners can visit www.MakingHomeAffordable.gov or call the Homeowner’s HOPE™ Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) to get free help from a HUD-approved housing counselor who will help them complete their paperwork and work productively with their mortgage servicer. Even if the Making Home Affordable Program turns out not to be the right solution for a particular family, a HUD-approved housing counselor will work with homeowners to get them the help they need. For the homeowners we talk to around the country, this gives them hope.
Phyllis Caldwell is Chief of the Homeownership Preservation Office at the U.S. Department of the Treasury