Program helps homeowners facing foreclosure get relief

Interest-free loans help homeowners catch up on payments

LANSING — Nearly 2,200 Michigan homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure because they fell behind on their mortgage, property tax or condominium fee payments will be able to stay in their homes this year after receiving more than $15.2 million in financial assistance from the Step Forward Michigan program.

The federally funded Step Forward Michigan program provides no-interest loans to homeowners who are behind on their property taxes, mortgage payments or condominium fees, according to a press release. The interest-free loan is completely forgiven if the homeowner stays in the home for five years.

From January through November 2017, Step Forward Michigan helped 2,197 homeowners by providing $8.9 million to cover mortgage payments, $6.3 million to cover property tax payments and $54,829 to cover condominium fees.

It’s estimated the program in December will have loaned about $1 million to 160 more qualifying homeowners, raising the 2017 totals to more than 2,350 homeowners helped with $16.2 million in loans, the release states.

About $38 million is still available for new loans to assist around 5,500 eligible households — those affected by a large medical bill, home repair, layoff, divorce, death in the family or other qualifying hardship — through 2020.

“If you’ve been hit with a hardship, you could get an interest-free loan of up to $30,000 to get caught up on property taxes, mortgage or condo payments,” Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Earl Poleski said in the release. “Even better, if you stay in your home for the next five years, the loan is forgiven and you don’t have to pay it back.”

Since the state began offering the program in 2010, a total of 35,482 homeowners statewide have qualified for $312.5 million in loans, according to the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Nonprofit Housing Corporation, which oversees the Step Forward Program in collaboration with MSHDA.

County treasurers across Michigan consider Step Forward Michigan a valuable tool both to help homeowners stay in their homes and to help county governments receive the tax money they need to pay for services such as law enforcement, recreation and safety. Lenders also have welcomed the program, since it can help financially struggling homeowners get caught up on mortgage payments.

Interested residents can see if they’re eligible by answering a short series of questions online at stepforwardmichigan.org or by calling 866-946-7432 toll-free.

To qualify for assistance, a homeowner must be a Michigan resident, have an ownership interest in the property and be able to sign new mortgage lien on property, occupy the property as his or her primary residence, have enough income to cover the mortgage, condo association fees, and/or property tax payments going forward, and have cash reserves no greater than $10,000.

Any homeowner convicted in the past 10 years on a financial-related felony, including larceny, theft, fraud, forgery, money laundering and/or tax evasion is not eligible for the program.

A homeowner can receive a loan only once from the program. Over the past six months, the average loan amount has been just over $7,000. Loan payments go directly to the county treasurer’s office, mortgage lender or condominium association, not to the homeowner.

For assistance on applying for the program, homeowners can turn to a number of local agencies that can be found at MSHDA’s website.

More information — including an in-depth Frequently Asked Questions document — is available at stepforwardmichigan.org.