January 11, 2011 (Chris Moore)
California has rolled out its Unemployed Mortgage Assistance Program (UMA) supported by $2 billion in federal dollars provided through the Hardest Hit Fund. Unemployed California homeowners can apply for up to $3,000 a month in mortgage assistance to tide them over for up to six months while looking for work. California has been one of the hardest hit states in the current economic crisis with a current unemployment rate of over 12 percent since October of 2009.
The Unemployed Mortgage Assistance Program (UMA) is the first of four programs the state is scheduled to roll out as part of an initiative called “Keep Your Home California.”
To qualify, a borrower’s mortgage servicer must have agreed to participate in the program. As of last weekend, only three lenders had signed up, although more are expected to do so shortly, according to the California Housing Finance Agency, which is running all four programs.
Four of the nation’s largest mortgage servicers – Chase, GMAC, Bank of America and Wells Fargo – are now participating. CitiMortgage still has not signed up but intends to, a spokesman told me last week.
The UMA program is available to low- and moderate income homeowners who have experienced an involuntary job loss and are in imminent danger of losing their home due to short-term financial problems. It’s not available to persons who have taken a cash-out refinance or home equity line of credit, nor will the other three programs be available to homeowners who have done so.
The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), which is sponsoring the federally funded program, has just posted a quick screening tool homeowners can use to see if they meet the major requirements at www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org/qualify.aspx. Homeowners can also call (888) 954-5337 to be referred to a housing counselor who will help determine eligibility for the Keep Your Home California program.
Like other assistance programs in other states, this program also requires the homeowner to pay back the loan if they sell their property in less than three years.
“For all intents and purposes, it’s a forgivable loan,” says Diane Richardson, CalHFA’s director of legislation.
The assistance you receive will be recorded as a lien against the property. “If you stay in your home and stay current on your payments, after three years we release the lien,” she says. In that case the assistance will be a gift from the federal government’s Hardest Hit Fund.
If within three years you either sell the home or refinance the loan for more than the outstanding debt on the property, you will have to repay all or some of the assistance you received.
Suppose you get $18,000 in assistance and within three years sell your home for $220,000. If your mortgage balance is $200,000, you will have to repay the full $18,000. But if your balance is $210,000, you will only have to repay $10,000.
Other programs coming soon to California under the Keep Your Home California initiative are:
• Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program: Designed to assist homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgages due to temporary change in household circumstances, this will provide up to $15,000 to help reinstate mortgages that are in arrears.
• Principal Reduction Program: Will provide capital to reduce outstanding principal balances for homeowners in negative equity, usually as a prelude to a loan modification to stave off foreclosure.
• Transition Assistance Program: One-time assistance to help homeowners relocate when they can no longer afford their home, in conjunction with a short-sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
Tags: UMA, keep your home California, hardest hit fund, mortgage assistance, mortgage servicers, CalHFA, mortgage lenders, federally funded program