Hundreds file for foreclosure assistance

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COEUR d'ALENE - Some 250 Idaho residents facing the loss of their homes have requested applications for an emergency home loan through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program that has made available $13 million to the state.

The agency approved the money for the state last fall and on April 1 approved Idaho's application to administer the program.

That allows the Idaho Housing and Finance Association to begin taking applications from homeowners at risk of foreclosure due to unemployment, underemployment or medical conditions. It's called the Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program.

"This is a program that will give assistance to some of the hardest hit families," said Loretta Hartman, broker and owner at North Idaho Real Estate, in Post Falls. "Sometimes all we need is a little bit of help so we can ride through the hard times until we get back on our feet. In many cases, this program might make the difference between having to forfeit your home or keeping it."

The Idaho Housing and Finance Association started making the applications available late last week, receiving hundreds of calls.

"These 250 applications that we have sent out are people who will probably qualify for this help," said Susan Semba, vice president of homeownership with IHFA, noting some screening is done on initial calls.

The money will help between 500 and 600 people in the state, though there are likely many more who could use the money, she said. The money will be distributed to those who qualify on a first-come, first-served basis.

"You know there has to be a lot more out there who could use this help," Semba said.

Ela Conner, a mortgage loan originator in the real estate department at Mountain West Bank, in Coeur d'Alene, said she has already referred four homeowners to the program.

She said it's expensive for banks to foreclose on homes. Some people are in homes for one or two years not making payments.

In some cases homes lose value by sitting vacant, and deteriorating because of neglect. Mold infestations or water damage from not being properly winterized are among the ways vacant homes have lost value, she said.

"From an emotional standpoint, we hate to see people losing their homes," Conner said. "That's probably the bigger thing. We don't want to see people become homeless."

Idaho is among the top 10 states in per-capita foreclosures for 26 consecutive months dating back to 2009, according to RealtyTrac, a national research group that tracks foreclosures.

That $13 million "is not going to go very far," said Gerald M. Hunter, president and executive director of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. "But every dollar is going to help. And it's better than doing nothing."

Homeowners applying for the money and who qualify will receive a loan to get their mortgage current. Homeowners can receive 24 months of mortgage relief payments or assistance up to $50,000.

"The assumption is that at that point you have an obligation to resume full monthly mortgage payments," said HUD spokesman Lee Jones.

The money homeowners get through the program would be "forgiven" over five years at 20 percent per year, if homeowners remain current on their mortgage.

"At the end of that time the homeowner is free and clear," Jones said.

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