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HUD takes applications in five states for mortgage assistance program

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The Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented its new program providing mortgage assistance to the unemployed in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Idaho and Delaware. Applications were being accepted Monday. Through the Dodd-Frank Act, HUD was cleared to establish the $1 billion Emergency Homeowner Loan Program. Through it, unemployed homeowners can receive a $50,000 interest-free loan to assist with their mortgage payments for up to 24 months. Eligible homeowners must be at least three months delinquent. The property must be the borrower's principal residence, and the borrower must able to demonstrate a good payment record before losing employment. Pennsylvania is set to receive $105 million in funding. Maryland will receive $40 million, followed by $33 million to Connecticut, $13 million to Idaho and $6 million to Delaware. HUD said because the program is similar to others set up by housing finance agencies in these five states, HUD can begin taking applications for EHLP ahead of other states. Since October, consumer advocacy groups began asking for distributions. HUD said previously that applications would be accepted this spring. In Philadelphia, the sheriff's foreclosure sale was delayed three consecutive months to wait for the EHLP to arrive. The first one since December will be held this week, but if a homeowner applies to EHLP and shows he or she received the assistance before July 6, the foreclosure sale can be stayed. "It's been a long time coming, but we hope that PHFA can begin to actually approve homeowners for aid within a week," said John Dodds, the director for the Philadelphia Uemployment Project, which pushed for the delays. He remains concerned about how long HUD is taking with the other 27 states. The funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2011. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, however, said he was happy the program is up and running. "The Emergency Homeowner Loan Program will provide limited and targeted assistance to help working families get back on their feet and keep their home while they look for work," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "We are pleased to get the program off the ground in Pennsylvania, which is already working to help keep families in their homes during difficult economic times." The House of Representatives voted in March to end the program before it began, however, claiming the U.S. government can no longer afford such subsidies. The Senate has not yet taken up the issue. "This Washington spending binge is driving our country right off a cliff," Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said after the bill was passed. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who set up the original bridge loan program in Philadelphia, commended the administration for clearing the assistance. "The $105.8 million means real help for real people and it comes at an appropriate time, as hundreds of Pennsylvania homeowners are facing eminent foreclosure," Fattah said. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior.

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