Underwater Homeowners May Get Mortgage Help Soon

New Hope for Mortgage Relief

About 2 million homeowners are reportedly expected to benefit from the settlement. The Bogans hope to be in that number. The couple is now a member of the advocacy organization Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which introduced them to counselors at Operation Hope. “They have been very inspirational in supporting us with encouragement and information on what our rights are as homeowners,” Melvina says.

In addition to seeking counsel from the local homeowner’s advocacy group, the Bogans have filed a complaint with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the office of California Sen. Barbara Boxer. The senator’s staff believes Richard and Melvina are eligible for a principal write-down under the settlement and have promised to assist. “I’m thinking that we’ve finally gotten to someone who can help us. I believe in fighting and keeping what belongs to you,” says Melvina, who is determined to work with her lender to modify the mortgage.

The foreclosure settlement and HAMP Tier 2 will help many African American homeowners. But not enough, says Rep. Elijah Cummings, (D-Md.) ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “Eighty percent of mortgages are financed by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.” The Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, blocked Fannie and Freddie from joining the principal reduction programs implemented in the multistate settlement or participating in HAMP. So, those homeowners who have mortgages privately held by the five big banks will likely benefit the most.

Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and the agreement, which will be executed over a three-year period, borrowers will not know right away if they are eligible for relief, Cummings says. Homeowners who need manageable mortgage payments should contact their bank directly to see if they qualify, Cummings suggests, since the settlement requires banks to provide up to $17 billion in principal reductions on first and second mortgages and other forms of loan modifications. An outspoken housing advocate, the congressman recently introduced legislation (the Military Family Home Protection Act) to protect deployed military members from losing their homes.

On the heels of the settlement, Bank of America announced it would forgive a portion of the principal balance on the mortgages of as many as 200,000 underwater homeowners by as much as $100,000 or more. The reduction for qualifying homeowners could amount to monthly savings of up to 30% on mortgage payments.

Those who are current on mortgage payments but underwater should see if they qualify for any of the $3 billion allocated for refinancing at lower interest rates. If you believe you’re eligible for cash back, contact your bank and your state Attorney General via www.naag.org. For more info, go to NationalMortgageSettlement.com or visit HOPE NOW.