HomeSafe Georgia, which is funded through the federal Hardest Hit Fund, provides mortgage assistance for struggling homeowners who are currently (or were previously) unemployed or underemployed. Keep reading to get an overview of the program, learn how much assistance is available, and find out if you are eligible.
Hardest Hit Fund
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.)
Georgia was awarded over $339 million in funds through the Hardest Hit Fund to help eligible homeowners avoid foreclosure. (Learn more about the Georgia foreclosure process.) To do this, Georgia set up the HomeSafe Georgia program.
There are two types of mortgage assistance available under the HomeSafe Georgia Program:
- The Payment Assistance program, which provides monthly mortgage payments for those who are currently unemployed or underemployed (with a 25% loss of income for wage earners or 30% decrease in gross receipts if self-employed).
- The Reinstatement Assistance program, which provides funds to reinstate a loan to those currently able to make their mortgage payment, but who fell behind while unemployed or underemployed.
How the HomeSafe Georgia Program Works
Assistance is provided in the form of an interest-free, forgivable loan secured by a junior lien that is recorded against the property. The loan is forgiven after five years from 30 days after the last date of assistance with a forgiveness rate of 20% per year. This means that if you stay in your home for five years plus 30 days after assistance ends, the lien balance will be reduced $0.
You only need to repay the loan if:
- you sell the property
- you no longer live in the property
- you transfer the property
- you file bankruptcy
- you are terminated from the program by HomeSafe Georgia, or
- HomeSafe Georgia declares a default under the Note or Security Deed.
To be eligible for HomeSafe Georgia assistance, you must meet all of the below criteria.
- You are a legal resident of Georgia and the United States.
- Your unemployment or underemployment id involuntary and occurred in January 2008 or later.
- You were current on your mortgage payments when you became unemployed or underemployed.
- You are current or no more than six months behind in mortgage payments at the time you apply.
- Your monthly mortgage payments are greater than 25% of your current monthly household income. (For the Reinstatement Assistance program, the ratio applies to the time you became unemployed/underemployed.)
- You don’t have more than $5,000 in liquid assets (excluding retirement accounts).
Home Eligibility Criteria
Additionally, your existing mortgages and the property securing the mortgages must meet the below criteria.
- You are the owner of the property.
- The property is your primary residence.
- The property is a single-family home, condominium, townhome, or one-to-four unit dwelling unit (and you live in one of the units).
- The total unpaid principal balance of all mortgages and lines of credit is not more than $417,000.
Mobile or manufactured homes are eligible if classified as real estate and affixed to a permanent foundation. Learn more about what happens if you are struggling to pay your mobile home loan.
You are not eligible for HomeSafe Georgia assistance if one of the below conditions applies to you.
- You filed bankruptcy and the bankruptcy is active. (If you previously filed bankruptcy and it was dismissed or you received a discharge, then you are eligible to apply for the program.)
- You have been convicted of a mortgage-related felony such as larceny, theft, fraud, forgery, money laundering, or tax evasion, within the last ten years.
- There is an IRS or Georgia tax lien on the property.
- You are in foreclosure. (Most loans in foreclosure are not eligible for this program. It is recommended that you contact a local HUD-approved housing counseling agency if your property is already in foreclosure. To learn the ins and outs of the foreclosure process, visit our Foreclosure Center.)
Program Details: Payment Assistance
HomeSafe Georgia will pay up to 18 monthly mortgage payments directly to the lender for first and second mortgages. Delinquencies of up to 6 months will be paid in an upfront reinstatement (which would then leave up to 12 months of monthly assistance available).
Additional criteria. You must pay 5% of your current gross household income toward your monthly mortgage payment during your participation in the program. Veterans and those currently serving in the military can request a waiver of this payment. (To learn about legal protections for military servicemembers, see our article Legal Protections for America's Military: The Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act.)
If you obtain new or better employment while participating in the program, your remaining loan proceeds can be used to:
- pay up to two additional mortgage payments, or
- for any additional delinquent mortgage payments or lender fees.
Program Details: Reinstatement Assistance
HomeSafe Georgia will make a one-time payment of up to six months of delinquent mortgage payments and fees directly to your lender. The total amount cannot exceed the equivalent of 18 regular payments.
Additional criteria. You must have the ability to continue making mortgage payments.
Servicer participation in this 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.)
To find out if your servicer is part of HomeSafe Georgia, go to www.homesafegeorgia.com/spv-66.aspx and select “Click Here for Participating Lenders.”
Even if your first mortgage lender is not on the list, you may still submit an application package. By doing this, HomeSafe Georgia will know which lenders they need to contact to encourage participation. Your application will be held on inactive status until the lender agrees to participate.
How to Apply
Go to www.HomeSafeGeorgia.com and click on “Start Now” to begin the application process. Once you finish setting up your profile, you will need to complete the seven-step online application during which you must provide:
- homeowner information
- contact information
- property information
- lender information
- a financial worksheet
- a hardship letter, and
- various other required documents (such as bank statements, tax transcripts, etc.)
After you complete the online application, it must be printed and signed by all homeowners/applicants and then mailed or faxed to HomeSafe Georgia. Go to www.HomeSafeGeorgia.com and click on “Contact Us” to obtain the fax number and address.
Beware of Scams
The HomeSafe Georgia program is free of charge and you should not pay for any services associated with applying for assistance. Do not pay any company that promises to expedite your application or guarantees approval.
For More Information
If you would like more information, you can call the customer service help line at 877-519-4443, which is open Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except holidays). You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.