local vocal

Help for homeowners facing foreclosure

by Beth McKee-Huger

In response to your April 13 article “Upside down: Foreclosures cut a wide path of destruction across the Piedmont Triad” [by Jordan Green; April 13, 2011]: Greensboro Housing Coalition, or GHC, offers foreclosure prevention counseling — and warns about scams and federal funding cuts.

First, the man’s business dropped out from under him. Then, foreclosure letters arrived and the “law firm” he paid $2,000 did nothing to resolve the problems.

Finally, he came to GHC for a housing counselor to skillfully sort out the issues, help him find ways to increase his income and budget his household expenses, and then negotiate a payment plan that will allow him to keep his home. Behind every foreclosure is a story of something that didn’t work out as planned: job loss, business failure, serious illness, car accident, family crisis. Working out a plan to keep the home — or to move out with as little damage as possible — takes persistence and knowledge. When mortgage lenders do not respond, discouraged homeowners often reach out for help — and are greeted by people eager to take their money in exchange for empty promises that all will be okay. Mortgage rescue scams are too easy to get into and very difficult to get out of. HUD approves housing counseling agencies, including GHC, so that homeowners have a reliable place to turn for professional services at no charge. GHC certified housing counselors help homeowners request loan modifications and negotiate the best resolution to their foreclosure situation. GHC is now part of the NC Foreclosure Prevention Fund, which makes mortgage payments for qualified unemployed workers while they seek jobs or complete job training in a new field. Others, who have gotten behind on mortgage payments because of divorce, illness or other temporary hardship may qualify for help while they seek jobs to get back on their feet. Homeowners can see if they are eligible for this program and find contact information for local housing counseling agencies by going to counselor.aspx and clicking on their county.

GHC invites homeowners to information sessions to learn more about this program and other foreclosure prevention possibilities and to start housing counseling about the option that best fits their circumstances. These will be held May 3, May 17 and May 24 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the Self-Help Center 122 N. Elm St. in downtown Greensboro; call 336.691.9521 for more information. Despite how urgently homeowners in foreclosure need help, Congress eliminated funding for HUD-approved housing counseling agencies in the budget deal for the federal year starting Oct. 1. As a comprehensive housing counseling agency, GHC also depends on this funding to provide first-time homebuyer education and counseling for tenants and persons experiencing homelessness. Congress will soon begin making decisions about the next federal budget, to start Oct. 1, 2012, and will choose whether to restore housing counseling funds — or not. Every foreclosure we prevent helps the state’s economic recovery by protecting property values and the local tax base. To promote economic stability, Greensboro Housing Coalition encourages everyone to contact Congress about funding HUD housing counseling.

The writer is the executive director of Greensboro Housing Coalition.