Sen. Casey Urges HUD to Release Funds to Prevent Home Foreclosures

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent a letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), urging HUD to release $1 billion in funds Congress authorized last year to help unemployed homeowners.   The Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP),  similar to legislation introduced by Senator Casey last year, was established through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the broad financial regulatory reform bill that President Obama signed into law in July 2010.  It provides funding for unemployed homeowners who are at risk of falling into foreclosure.

“When HUD announced in October 2010 that Pennsylvania would receive over $100 million, I was very happy that the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and advocates for unemployed homeowners all over the Commonwealth would be able to scale up their substantial efforts to keep families in their homes,” Senator Casey wrote in his letter.  “Unfortunately, the promised funds have still not reached those families who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments at the same time they are struggling to find work.”

Senator Casey continued, “I am confident that PHFA will be able to draw on nearly three decades of administering the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) to deploy these new federal funds immediately and efficiently.  However, each day that HUD delays getting the funding to the state agencies is another day that unemployed homeowners must wait to obtain the relief that the EHLP is intended to provide.”

At the urging of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project and the Philadelphia City Council, the city’s highest court imposed a 30-day moratorium on sheriff’s sales in December.  Senator Casey requested that the Department immediately release EHLP funds so that similar legal action will not be necessary to protect homeowners and their families.

John Dodds, Director of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, added, “How many families have lost their homes since October 1st when the $1 billion in federal funds became available?  How many more will lose them in the months ahead as HUD slowly decides how to run this program?  We need HUD to work around the clock to get this program operational and we believe Sheriff Sales should be delayed until people can access the program.”

Pennsylvania is slated to receive over $105 million and is well positioned to spend the money quickly, since the EHLP is largely modeled on the successful Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program that PHFA has administered since 1983.  The delay in the disbursement of funds, however, has burdened state agencies like PHFA that have been designated recipients of funds as well as unemployed homeowners who live in fear of losing their homes to foreclosure.  In his letter, Senator Casey noted that in Pennsylvania, PHFA stands ready to ensure that EHLP funds will assist qualified borrowers, prevent foreclosures and help stabilize the housing market.  The HEMAP formula of providing temporary mortgage assistance to borrowers facing temporary loss of income due to unemployment or illness is “well suited to the current economic situation where widespread subprime loan defaults triggered a housing crisis causing home values to fall just as the weak economy caused massive job losses,” Senator Casey wrote.

Senator Casey has repeatedly urged HUD to consider implementing a foreclosure prevention strategy based on HEMAP and modeled legislation he introduced after it.   The EHLP, which was also modeled after this successful Pennsylvania program, was included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and signed into law in July 2010.

Full text of the Senator’s letter is below.
Dear Secretary Donovan:

I am writing to urge the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to release to states the $1 billion in funds for the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program (EHLP).  The delay in the disbursement has created a severe burden on states and state agencies that have been designated recipients of funds and, more importantly, unemployed homeowners who live in fear of losing their homes to foreclosure.

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) stands ready to ensure that EHLP funds will assist qualified borrowers, prevent foreclosures, and help stabilize the housing market.  PHFA has administered the very successful Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) since 1983.  The program’s simple formula of providing temporary mortgage assistance to borrowers facing temporary loss of income due to unemployment or illness is well suited to the current economic situation where widespread subprime loan defaults triggered a housing crisis causing home values to fall just as the weak economy caused massive job losses.

I have repeatedly urged HUD to consider implementing a foreclosure prevention strategy based on HEMAP, and I modeled the Homeowners’ Relief and Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2010 on this Pennsylvania program.  The inclusion of EHLP, also modeled after HEMAP, in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, was a victory for borrowers across the country who have struggled to repay their mortgage loans in a time of widespread unemployment and falling home prices.  When HUD announced in October 2010 that Pennsylvania would receive over $100 million, I was very happy that PHFA and advocates for unemployed homeowners all over the Commonwealth would be able to scale up their substantial efforts to keep families in their homes.

Unfortunately, the promised funds have still not reached those families who are struggling to make their monthly mortgage payments at the same time they are struggling to find work.  The Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law on July 21, 2010 and designated October 1, 2010 as the effective date for the EHLP.  Pursuant to its authority under the new law, HUD issued guidance on November 12, 2010 indicating that eligible recipients are required to obligate 100% of funds received by September 30, 2011.  I am confident that PHFA will be able to draw on nearly three decades of administering HEMAP to deploy these new federal funds immediately and efficiently.  However, each day that HUD delays getting the funding to the state agencies is another day that unemployed homeowners must wait to obtain the relief that the EHLP is intended to provide.

Residents of the City of Philadelphia are fortunate that on December 23, 2010, the city’s highest court imposed a 30-day moratorium on sheriff’s sales following an emergency petition from the Philadelphia Unemployment Project.  Local officials also supported the temporary delay, largely in anticipation of the infusion of federal funds that is expected through the EHLP.  I respectfully request that the Department immediately release EHLP funds so that similar legal action will not be necessary to protect homeowners and their families.  The Department’s sense of urgency should match that of local communities, demonstrated by the broad coalition that fought for this moratorium in Philadelphia.

I appreciate your consideration of this request, and I look forward to working with you on robust foreclosure prevention policies in the future.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss this matter further, please contact my staff.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator


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