Feds to Investigate Florida Mortgage Assistance Program
Brandon, FL (Law Firm Newswire) June 24, 2013 - Florida's implementation of a federal mortgage assistance program is being investigated by federal officials.
The Hardest Hit Fund is a federal program to provide $7.6 billion to the 18 states most severely affected by the housing bubble. Many families are deeply “underwater” on their homes, meaning they owe more than the properties are worth. Although Florida state officials have prioritized the reduction of the size of homeowners' mortgages as a form of assistance, it seems few homeowners have been helped that way.
“The housing crisis is still being felt throughout Florida,” said Tampa bankruptcy attorney O. Reginald Osenton. “Many families, despite faithful payments on their mortgages and a slow recovery in housing, remain far underwater on their mortgages. Together with still-high unemployment, that creates an untenable situation. That is why it is so important for these families to get the assistance this program is intended to provide.”
The Hardest Hit Fund was created as part of a settlement between the federal government and the country's five largest lenders to resolve allegations of illegal handling of mortgages. Each state that receives money from the program decides for itself how it should be spent. The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is administering the program for Florida.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, only 15 percent of over 40,000 Florida homeowners who applied for help have received it in the three years since the program began. And most of that help came in the form of temporary assistance with mortgage payments lasting up to one year, not reductions of the outstanding principle, leaving homeowners only slightly less underwater than where they started. In April, federal officials said they would investigate Florida's handling of the program. This came at the request of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Sentinel said.
Nelson's office released a statement calling the investigation “good news” and a “crucial step” toward getting help for Florida homeowners.
Controversy over the program mounted after the Tampa Bay Times reported that at least 15 Tampa-area homeowners received assistance despite having felony records and dozens more received checks despite previous foreclosures, tax liens, and bankruptcies.
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