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Resources available for foreclosure prevention

RALEIGH — Help is on its way in the Roanoke-Chowan area as well as statewide for families facing the possibility of foreclosure in these tough economic times. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency recently secured $1.9 million of federal funds to support foreclosure prevention efforts by nonprofit counseling agencies statewide. Funded by the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program, the grant is the second that the housing agency has gained this year, for a total of nearly $5 million. So far, the federal funds have enabled counseling agencies to help more than 2,000 North Carolina families. The influx of that money means the holidays may not be as bleak for families facing foreclosure. These federal funds are to the state for housing counseling and the expansion of a state program that provides loans to displaced workers in danger of losing their homes because of job loss. The new grant also includes $600,000 for legal assistance. Counseling agencies can refer eligible homeowners for free legal advice to the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks, Pisgah Legal Aid in Asheville, or Legal Aid of Southern Piedmont in Charlotte. “People facing foreclosure often don’t seek help,” said Lucius Jones, chairman of the N.C. Housing Finance Agency. “They have a much better chance of keeping their home if they talk with their mortgage company at the first sign of trouble.” Jones continued, “These two excellent opportunities to get free, expert advice from a local counseling agency can help struggling homeowners negotiate with their mortgage company and explore other options. “Nobody wins when foreclosures take place.” Locally, the Choanoke Area Development Association, based in Rich Square, can offer mortgage foreclosure counseling for residents of Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties. Call CADA at 252-539-4155 for more information. Gates County residents can turn to the River City Community Development Corporation in Elizabeth City for assistance. They can be reached at 252-331-2925. A second resource, funded by the General Assembly, is available to homeowners who have lost jobs because of plant closings or other changes in economic conditions. Expanded this year to all 100 counties, the Home Protection Program offers zero-interest bridge loans to make mortgage payments while the displaced worker looks for another job or completes an approved retraining program. The loan amount and length of the assistance vary based upon homeowners’ circumstances, with a maximum of $24,000 and 24 months. Homeowners resume their mortgage payments when the assistance ends, but do not need to repay the bridge loan for 15 years, unless they sell, refinance, or no longer use the home as their principal residence. So far, 364 homeowners have received loans, and 3,000 have received counseling under the Home Protection Program. In addition, homeowners facing foreclosure due to a sub-prime loan should contact the N.C. Office of the Commissioner of Banks, which is reviewing sub-prime loans that closed in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Consumers should call 1-888-384-3811. The North Carolina Housing Finance Agency is a self-supporting public agency. It has financed 184,000 homes and apartments in the last three decades, including more than 77,000 homes for first-time home buyers. To learn more, go to www.nchfa.com or call 919-877-5700 or 800-393-0988.