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Mortgage problems? Help is available

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A new federal program is providing mortgage payment assistance to Bedford County's unemployed and underemployed.

Bedford County residents have been identified as heavily impacted by the recession and can now apply for the highest level of benefit -- up to $20,000 to cover up to 18 months of mortgage expenses, through the U.S. Treasury's new Hardest Hit Fund Program.

The program is administered in Tennessee by Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) and the application process is being facilitated by THDA partners, including NeighborWorks Alliance of Tennessee. Tennessee has $191 million allocated for this program.

Homeowners are able to apply through NeighborWorks Alliance of Tennessee for the loans, which are zero percent interest and forgivable, meaning if borrowers meet program standards, they do not have to repay the loans.

Eligible homeowners are those who are unemployed or significantly underemployed, through no fault of their own. Also eligible are homeowners who are delinquent because of overdue payments accumulated during a past period of unemployment or underemployment.

Full program details can be found at HardestHitTN.org.

To qualify, the household can earn no more than $74,980 annually and the balance on the house cannot exceed $226,100. Applicants must have less than six months reserves, dedicate 31 percent or more of their reduced income to mortgage payments and have a history of timely mortgage payments prior to income reduction.

The home must be a Tennessee owner-occupied, primary residence that is affixed to real estate.

"After years of recession, even the most fiscally responsible can find themselves in a difficult place and we want to do everything possible to help them, "said Corinne Cahill, NeighborWorks America's Deputy Director of the Great Lakes District.

Program funds may be used to pay past-due, current and future monthly payments on mortgages and mortgage related expenses such as property taxes, homeowner insurance and homeowner dues.

Loans are forgiven 20 percent each year the borrower stays in the home without refinancing until the loan is considered repaid after five years.

NeighborWorks Alliance of Tennessee, a consortium of nonprofits that provide assistance to low-and-moderate income homeowners, will work closely with borrowers throughout the process.

Homeowners will be requested to provide income, unemployment and mortgage delinquency information during the initial phone call. The group will then help complete, certify and file all needed documentation and even facilitate the loan closing.

Potentially eligible homeowners can begin the application process by calling (888) 588-9129.