The Hardest Hit Fund, funded by the U.S. Department of Treasury, offers struggling homeowners a 10-year forgivable loan for up to $25,000 to bring their mortgages current by paying arrearages, penalties, and fines, as well as regular monthly mortgage payments. Programs like the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which focus on making monthly payments more affordable, aren’t tailored to the needs of borrowers who have experienced a dramatic drop in income and cannot afford to make even reduced monthly payments. With unemployment rates reaching nearly 10 percent in Illinois, a program like HHF is badly needed to help keep families in their homes while they look for work. Community interest has been substantial—IHDA has already received more than 15,000 applications, mostly from the Chicago area. The program is projected to help 15,000 homeowners stay in their homes.
“If we can keep people in their homes, we have a better chance of keeping neighborhoods stable,” says Ronald Litke, Director of Communications at IHDA.
In order to use HHF funds effectively, IHDA developed a set of eligibility requirements to target “people who seem like they have a good chance of getting back on their feet,” according to Litke. Homeowners must have experienced an income reduction of 25 percent or more due to un- or under-employment through no fault of their own. Homeowners’ incomes must be at or below 120 percent of area median income, and the principal loan balance of the mortgage cannot be more than $500,000. Only homeowners with fixed- or adjustable-rate mortgages are eligible for the program—interest-only or negatively amortizing loans would not be eligible, for example. Homeowners can apply for the program for free and learn about all eligibility requirements at the Hardest Hit Fund’s website. Ineligible homeowners who apply for the program will work with counselors to seek out other options and can appeal the decision.