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New Life For Program Designed To Help Struggling PA Homeowners

Tom Edwards (Credit: Pat Loeb)

Tom Edwards (Credit: Pat Loeb)

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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Tom Edwards worked hard all his life, bought a home in Wynnefield and expected to enjoy his retirement there.

But then he suffered a series of strokes and fell behind on a loan payment. He has stayed current since his recovery, but he needed a small loan to retire the old debt.

It was exactly the situation that Pennsylvania’s Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) was designed for and Edwards was approved for a loan from the fund.

A national model, HEMAP has helped some 46,000 Pennsylvanians keep their homes through temporary hard times since it was created in 1983.

But last year, Governor Corbett eliminated the program from the state budget. Edwards home of 40 years went into foreclosure and the frail, disabled retiree faces eviction.

“I’ve had three strokes and they do me this way,” he says. “It’s not easy.”

But there is new hope for Edwards. The Pennsylvania legislature, in June, unanimously passed a bill to restart the program, using $60 million from a foreclosure fraud settlement.

In April, the nation’s five largest banks agreed to pay $26 billion to 49 state Attorney Generals, who sued the banks for abusive practices.

Pennsylvania’s share was $266 million, including $66 million in discretionary funds. The remaining $200 million will go directly to homeowners who lost their homes.

State Senator John Gordner sponsored the bill to restore HEMAP funding.

“The HEMAP program has been one of our most successful programs,” he says. “There is an 85 percent success rate, meaning 85 percent (of people who entered the program) ended up being able to keep their homes. And that really is the American Dream; it’s what we want as a state, as a nation, as a society. So when these monies became available through the national settlement, it seemed like it should be priority one to get them into the HEMAP program and get it to help rescue families as it has done for decades.”

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency administers the program. A spokesman says the Agency is awaiting confirmation that the money is available but is ready to being accepting applications again as soon as it does.

The Attorney General’s office says it expects the money will be available for the program by the end of July.