Economy
7:45 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Senate Bill Could Save Many Pennsylvanians From Foreclosure

A program which has been credited with saving 46,000 homes from foreclosure in Pennsylvania has been given a new life and funding.

HEMAP, the Homeowners Emergency Assistance Program, was established in the commonwealth in 1983. The state spent $245 million on the program, which generated repayments to the state of $275 million. However, under Governor Corbett, funding for the program dried up and no new participants in HEMAP have been accepted since last September.

"It should never have been defunded," said Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny). "Many of us on this side of the aisle voted 'no' because this was a very vital program to the livelihood and the ability of many of our homeowners to sustain their life's asset."

The Senate today unanimously approved legislation that will tap money from a $25 billion settlement reached by the attorneys general of 49 states, including Pennsylvania, with the nation's five largest lenders to end mortgage servicing and foreclosure abuses.

The loan program provides assistance to homeowners facing the loss of their homes due to circumstances beyond their control, such as losing their job or facing medical emergencies.

Pennsylvania will receive approximately $266 million in installments with the first payment totaling about $69 million to be used for consumer and mortgage foreclosure protection programs.

Senator LeAnna Washington (D-Philadelphia) said the highest rate of foreclosures is in her district, and this will give people in danger of losing their homes some hope.

"When we talk about families and keeping families together under one household, this is extremely important," Washington said.

Under Senate Bill 1433, no less than 90% of the money will be directed to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) to fund HEMAP. 5% will be directed to the Office of the Attorney General for housing consumer protection programs, and 5% will be directed to the Access to Justice Account for civil legal assistance for housing issues.

The legislation calls for $6 million of the settlement fund to be used in the current fiscal year and $12 million in future years, which is about the same amount of funding HEMAP had been receiving from the state in previous years.

The measure now goes to Governor Corbett for his signature.