For older Ohioans on a limited income, making it from month to month can be an economic juggling act, with the mortgage payment often losing out to other bills. Far too many must choose between keeping their homes and buying food and medicine.
Many seniors have lived in their homes for years and owe relatively little on their mortgage. Nonetheless, a serious illness or other circumstance beyond their control can quickly cause an older homeowner to fall behind on monthly mortgage payments, putting them in danger of foreclosure. In Ohio, there were more than 83,000 new foreclosure court filings in 2007 - a record high, according to statistics tracked by the Supreme Court of Ohio. At one foreclosure per every 640 households, Ohio ranks fifth in the nation in foreclosures.
To help reduce home foreclosures in Ohio and bring stability to the families and communities affected by this crisis, Gov. Ted Strickland, with the Ohio Department of Commerce, created the “Save the Dream” foreclosure assistance program, which provides information and highlights programs and initiatives to help consumers keep their homes.
One such initiative connects qualified homeowners with legal aid lawyers and nearly 1,100 attorneys statewide who have volunteered to provide legal services free of charge. Homeowners who meet income and other eligibility requirements can be connected with a pro bono or legal aid attorney. Basic income eligibility is 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, which is about $54,000 annual income for a family of four.
Gov. Strickland also announced that nine mortgage loan servicers have agreed to sign a “Compact to Help Ohioans Preserve Homeownership,” the first agreement of its kind in the nation. The servicers pledged that they would work with the state in making every possible attempt to prevent default loans and foreclosures in Ohio. As part of the compact, the servicers agreed to:
• Engage in loan modification efforts for adjustable rate mortgage resets and subprime mortgages.
• Identify, evaluate and make good faith attempts to contact at-risk or defaulting borrowers as soon as possible.
• Modify loans as is legally possible.
• Create incentives for staff and foreclosure counsel to modify loans rather than foreclose.
Homeowners can learn more about Save the Dream and these initiatives by visiting savethedream.ohio.gov or calling toll-free 1-888-404-4674.
From Aging Connection, a publication of The Ohio Department of Aging