California Mortgage Principal Reduction Program

With California's Principal Reduction Program, you may be able to reduce the principal balance of your mortgage. Find out how it works and whether you qualify.

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If you have suffered a financial hardship and your home is underwater, you may be able to reduce the principal balance of your first mortgage with California's Principal Reduction Program (PRP). PRP is one of the programs in Keep Your Home California. Read on to get an overview of the program, learn how much assistance is available, and find out if you are eligible.

Keep Your Home California

In 2010, the U.S. Department of the Treasury created the Hardest Hit Fund to provide targeted aid to homeowners in those states most affected by the housing market crash. As part of this program, $7.6 billion in aid was allocated to the 18 states, along with Washington, D.C., that experienced the most extreme home price declines and high unemployment rates as a result of the economic crisis.

(Learn more about the Hardest Hit Fund.)

Through the Hardest Hit Fund, California was awarded nearly $2 billion in funds to help eligible homeowners avoid foreclosures by way of four programs, which are collectively called Keep Your Home California. (Get an Overview of Keep Your Home California.) Each program provides a different type of financial assistance to low and moderate-income homeowners. The programs are:

  • The Principal Reduction Program, which provides funds to underwater homeowners to pay down the principal balance of a first mortgage loan.
  • The Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program, which assists senior homeowners who have fallen behind on property expenses (such as property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and HOA dues or assessments) to reinstate past-due amounts and provide advances for upcoming property expenses.

(To learn about the other programs in Keep Your Home California, visit our California Foreclosure Law Center.)

The Principal Reduction Program

The Principal Reduction Program (PRP) provides funds to reduce the principal balance of underwater mortgages in one of the following ways:

  • in conjunction with a loan modification
  • a stand-alone curtailment, or
  • through a loan recast. (A recast is when funds are applied to reduce the existing unpaid principal balance and a new monthly payment is calculated without a loan modification. There are no changes to the interest rate or term.)

The program provides as much as $100,000 in principal reduction per household.

Borrower Eligibility Criteria for PRP

To be eligible for PRP, you must qualify as a low or moderate-income household based on all of the below criteria.

  • Your household qualifies as low-to-moderate income based on per-household income thresholds set forth in the county in which you reside. (The income limits are higher than you might guess. For example, the limit is $123,600 in San Francisco county and $91,100 in San Diego county. To find out the income limits in your county, go to http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/income-limits.)
  • You recently encountered a financial hardship.
  • You have completed and signed a Hardship Affidavit/3rd Party Authorization documenting the reason for your hardship.
  • You have adequate income to sustain the new mortgage payments.
  • You agree to provide all necessary documentation to satisfy program guidelines.
  • Your pre-assistance, total monthly first-lien mortgage payment PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance, as applicable) including any escrowed HOA dues or assessments, is greater than 38% of your gross household income excluding temporary income (such as unemployment benefits) and/or your pre-assistance LTV ratio is greater than 100%.
  • Your post-assistance, total monthly first-lien mortgage payment must meet CalHFA MAC’s definition of an “Affordable Payment,” which means that your monthly first-lien mortgage payment is no greater than 38% of the gross household income excluding temporary income (e.g., unemployment or short-term disability benefits). In some cases, the program may approve investor program guidelines that use post-assistance affordable monthly first-lien mortgage definitions greater than 38%.
  • Delinquent homeowners with a pre-assistance LTV of greater than 100% but less than 120% that have a pre-assistance Affordable Payment must be able to demonstrate that an eligible hardship caused their payment to be temporarily unaffordable.

Home Eligibility Criteria for PRP

Additionally, your existing mortgage and the property securing that mortgage must meet the below criteria, among other things.

  • The current unpaid principal balance for the first-lien mortgage loan is $729,750 or less.
  • The home is not abandoned, vacant, or condemned.
  • The property is a single-family or one-to-four unit home that is owner-occupied.
  • The property is in California.
  • The property is your primary residence.

Mobile homes are eligible if they are permanently affixed to the real property that is secured by the first lien. (Learn more about what happens if you are struggling to pay your mobile home loan.)

Servicer Participation

Servicer participation in the program is voluntary. (A mortgage servicer is the company that collects monthly mortgage payments from borrowers on behalf of the owner of the loan, as well as tracks account balances, manages the escrow account, handles loss mitigation applications, and pursues foreclosure in the case of defaulted loans.)

Mortgage servicers and lenders, along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were initially reluctant to participate in the program because it required a dollar-for-dollar match. As a result, of the nearly $2 billion available to help troubled California homeowners, only about one-sixth of that money has been distributed. However, the program has been changed so that the principal can be reduced without a matching contribution from the banks.

Following this change, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac dropped their opposition to the PRP and more banks, including the largest mortgage servicers such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase, have agreed to sign on to the program. (Though these particular servicers are currently limiting their participation in PRP to loan recasts only.)

To find out if your servicer is participating in PRP, go to http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/participating-servicers.

How the Program Works

If the bank provides less than a 100% match, the assistance is provided in the form of a non-recourse, non-interest bearing subordinate loan secured by a junior lien that is recorded against the property. After a certain number of years, the subordinate lien will be released. You only need to repay the loan if you sell the home for a profit or refinance (and take cash out) during that time.

If the bank matches the assistance in an amount equal to or greater than 100% of the PRP assistance provided to the homeowner, then the assistance is not required to be structured as a loan.

How to Apply

To apply for PRP assistance, you can:

  • call Keep Your Home California at 888-954-KEEP (5337)
  • contact your mortgage servicer directly, or
  • visit one of the HUD-approved counseling agencies participating in Keep Your Home California. (To learn more about housing counseling, see our article Free Counseling in California for Struggling Homeowners.)

For More Information

Go to www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org or www.ConservaTuCasaCalifornia.org (for a Spanish-language version of the website) for more information.

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