The treasurers from Hillsdale, Branch, Jackson and Lenawee counties assembled at the Jackson County Commission Chambers recently in an effort to stem the tide of foreclosures in south central Michigan.
"This program is for delinquent tax assistance. So, homeowners that are delinquent on mortgage payments and/or tax payments and are at risk of foreclosure," said Mary Townley, Director of Homeownership at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
"So, we have these funds available to help these homeowners catch up with their delinquency, so that they can avoid foreclosure and continue to be a successful homeowner in the future."
So far, in Hillsdale County alone, 145 homeowners have been helped with more than one million interest free dollars in total, according to Hillsdale County Treasurer, Stephenie Kyser, with $914,309 devoted to mortgage payments and $189,407 devoted to property taxes.
Hillsdale homeowners who are facing foreclosure, at risk of foreclosure or have been through foreclosure can work with a housing counselor at the Community Action Agency in Hillsdale free of charge. Homeowners can apply by phone at 866-946-7432 or online at stepforwardmichigan.org.
"It's a loan, but if someone stays in their home for five years, the loan is forgiven," said Kyser.
The program was created in 2010 following the collapse of the housing market and uses funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Programs to target states, like Michigan, that have the largest problems with delinquencies and foreclosures.
"These funds are being used to stop the foreclosures which will keep families in their homes and will allow us to stabilize value in their neighborhood," said Townley.
Townley added that the MSHDA's biggest struggle is getting homeowners to complete the program.
"We have many homeowners that start the process and they don't finish it. One area that we struggle with is we reach out to those homeowners numerous times to encourage them to continue on with the application, because in many situations we can help them, but for some reason or another, they've just chosen to stop," she said.
"I think it's many different reasons, probably the one that comes to mind the most is sometimes if you ignore a problem you think it will go away. This problem won't go away unless you ask for help."
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