Local
2:13 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Call for Pennsylvania to Restore Funds for People Facing Foreclosure

In August, 1 in every 1,666 properties in the state received a foreclosure filing, with the highest rates in the southwestern and southeastern parts of the commonwealth. In Allegheny County, the rate was 1 in every 1,353, but the worst was in Philadelphia, where 1 in every 797 properties was hit by a foreclosure notice.

However, state support was all but eliminated for the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP), which shut down in July.

Now, advocates are asking for the program's return with $15 million from the state. Alan Jennings is with a housing advocacy group in the Lehigh Valley. He said people who can pay their mortgages also have something at stake. "Well, your neighbor's foreclosure is your problem too," Jennings said. "This is not just about your neighbor losing their home. It's about the decline of property values because too much property has been dumped into the market and it's bringing down prices."

State Senator Vincent Hughes (D- Philadelphia) said the program could have been salvaged months ago if Governor Corbett had pushed to use the budget year-end surplus, which was more than $700 million. "There wasn't an issue, there wasn't a problem, we had enough money, and what did this governor do? He said, 'To hell with y'all.' He said, 'To hell with the average homeowner in Pennsylvania.' He said you don't matter."

Corbett has stood by his decision not to spend that money. The governor said the remaining surplus could go to pay for recovery efforts from recent flooding.

But Reverend Sandra Strauss, of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, said the state can afford to fully fund HEMAP. "An investment in HEMAP is an investment in Pennsylvania's families, and unlike many of the bad investments that have led us to this point, this investment is one that promises great returns for all Pennsylvanians," Strauss said.