The Housing Finance Agency Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets, also known as the Hardest Hit Fund, is part of the government’s Making Home Affordable initiative. It is a federally funded foreclosure prevention program that may be able to help you with your mortgage difficulties if you live in one of the designated states.
Read on to learn more about the Hardest Hit Fund, whether you are eligible for help under the program, and what types of assistance are available if you are in danger of foreclosure. (To learn about other programs that are part of the Making Home Affordable initiative, visit our Government Foreclosure Prevention Programs topic area.)
History of the Hardest Hit Fund
In February 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 18 states, plus the District of Columbia. These states (and D.C.) experienced the most extreme home price declines (more than 20%), as well as high unemployment rates, as a result of the economic crisis. As of late 2015, Congress has committed to provide another $2 billion to the federal Hardest Hit Fund.
Each state that received funds developed it’s own program, which is administered by that state’s housing finance agency, to distribute the funds and assist distressed homeowners in avoiding foreclosure.
Hardest Hit Fund states are:
- Illinois (program closed to new applicants)
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Ohio (program is no longer accepting applications)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- Tennessee, and
- Washington D.C.
Available Relief for Distressed Homeowners
The assistance programs vary from state to state, but may include:
- mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners
- principal reductions to help homeowners obtain more affordable mortgages
- bringing a delinquent mortgage current with a one-time payment
- eliminating homeowners' second lien loans, and
- helping struggling homeowners transition into more affordable residences after moving out of their homes.
States have until the end of 2017 to make use of the funds allocated under the Hardest Hit Fund. If a state still has funds available after December 31, 2017, they must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
Eligibility to Recieve Help Under State Hardest Hit Programs
While the Hardest Hit Fund is part of the Making Home Affordable Program, assistance through this program is not limited to those who are eligible for Making Home Affordable. Most of the Hardest Hit Fund programs are geared toward unemployed homeowners. Eligibility requirements differ from state to state, but generally the requirements are:
- The property must be owner occupied.
- The homeowner is unemployed or underemployed (through no fault of his or her own).
- The homeowner’s total annual income is less than a certain amount (as designated by the state program).
- The homeowner has limited financial resources.
- The unpaid principal balance on the homeowner’s mortgage cannot exceed a certain amount. (The limit is around $400,000 in most states, though it is lower in some, like Alabama, where the total unpaid balance cannot exceed $258,690. The limit is also higher in some places, like Washington, D.C. for example, where the outstanding loan balance must not be greater than $729,750).
How to Apply for Assistance
If you live in one of the designated states or Washington, D.C., contact your local housing finance agency's office to learn more about the specifics of the program in your state and how to apply. You can also obtain further information by going to www.treasury.gov/initiatives/financial-stability/TARP-Programs/housing/Pages/Program-Documents.aspx. At this website, you can find out how much money was allocated to your state, as well as find links to general information about your state program and how to submit an application for assistance.
For More Information
If you have additional questions about the Hardest Hit Fund, or any other program under the Making Home Affordable initiative, you can call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) or go to www.makinghomeaffordable.gov for more information.