The Fair Housing Center (FHC) is promoting a relatively new state program that helps people who are struggling to pay their mortgages.
The FHA is a HUD certified counseling agency under the Ohio Housing Finance Agency.
“We do assist people who are facing foreclosure,” said Lisa Lawson, of the FHC. She said the program, Restoring Stability, is “an excellent program for people who have fallen behind on their mortgage or who are struggling with their mortgage.”
The state has up to $25,000 in assistance for each homeowner that meets the program’s criteria of involuntary financial hardship in the last three years.
“So if they were laid off two years ago and they still haven’t managed to get caught up in their payments, we might be able to help them,” she said.
There are three main qualifying groups that are eligible for the program: Those who are unemployed; are divorced; or have medical hardships and are strapped with a lot of bills.
“For the unemployed, we can help them not only get caught up with their payments, but make their payments for up to 15 months to help them get back on their feet. And even after they find a job, the state will continue to pay their mortgage for three months just to help them get back on their feet,” said Lawson.
“This is a fantastic program. The state has made some changes to it as of April. Now we can assist people who are behind in their taxes, even if they don’t have a mortgage, which is amazing,” said Lawson. “There are a lot of hoops to jump through. It’s a state run program. We’re only the ones processing the paperwork. We don’t make those decisions. But for the people it does help, it’s amazing. We have actually processed more of those applications and gotten more of those approved in the state than all but one other entity, and they are a statewide group. So we’re cranking those out. We want people to get help and we want that money in our area for people who need it.”
The financial assistance is a deferred, forgivable, zero percent loan, she said.
“So if a person remains in the home, it’s completely gone after five years,” she said.
Although it helps individuals and families with financial stability, it also provides neighborhood stability by shoring up property values, she added.
The application can only be filled online, she said. “It’s required by the state. I don’t know why they did that. It’s very difficult for the elderly. If someone needs help with that, we can help them,” she said. The link to the FHC’s website is toledofhc.org.
Lawson gave a brief overview of the FHC, which supports the freedom and ability of an individual or family to choose where they want to live, without regard to protected class status. Currently, there are seven federally protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status (children in the home).
“Our largest basis for complaint here in this area is race. But nationally, disability has actually overtaken race as the number one basis for complaint,” she said. “Some of the things we see that are blatant are things like, `I’m sorry, we don’t accept people with children,’ or `You have to have a two bedroom apartment because you and your child can’t share a room.’ There are really no rules against that. But they can also be very subtle. It can be as simple as, `I’m sorry, but that apartment has already been rented,’ or `We only have a one bedroom and you need a two bedroom.’ But then people drive by for a week and the sign is still out front, and they wonder, `Hmm. Wonder what’s going on over there.” Then they often call us. We will investigate those complaints. We do file complaints with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and HUD. We investigate those, we enforce those. We work mediation with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the complainant.”
For more information, contact the Fair Housing Center at 419-243-6163.