Early in 2011, a number of states most affected by the recent housing market crisis received as much as hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money to help stem the flow of consumers losing their homes to foreclosure. But in one of those states, many problems still persist.
HomeSafe Georgia, the program launched in the wake of that state receiving close to $340 million to help unemployed homeowners duck foreclosure, has recently drawn criticism for doing alarmingly little to help those financially disadvantaged consumers, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since launching in April 2011, the program has given just $23 million in funds to less than 1,000 Georgians, even as 12,000 state residents receive foreclosure notices every month.
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Experts believe that the reason so few people have been able to receive help from HomeSafe Georgia in the past year is that the qualifications to do so are extremely stringent, the report said. One of the most troubling stipulations in the program is that unemployed consumers can be no more than six months behind on their mortgage payments. Many of the Georgians who would be helped by the program had been unemployed for far longer than that, meaning that they were ineligible for assistance even before the program existed.
HomeSafe Georgia receives about 400 or 500 applications in a given month, and about 20% of those end up being approved for entry into the program. Phil Foil, deputy commissioner at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, says he’d like to see the number of applicants per month double.
“We are doing good things, but could be helping a lot more people,” Foil told the newspaper. “If we had to do it over again, we’d probably look at our marketing … and figure out how we’d get the word to unemployed folks quicker and better.”
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Though 18 states in all received substantial amounts of money to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure, many say that these programs have largely been unhelpful to Americans specifically because of the qualifications set forth on both national and state levels. On the other hand, some have argued that relaxing standards would result in too many people qualifying, and not receiving enough help on an individual basis.
Image: trint, via Flickr