Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bergen OKs aid for needy seniors facing foreclosure

HACKENSACK — The Bergen County Board of Freeholders on Wednesday approved $20,000 in funding for legal assistance for low-income seniors facing foreclosure on their homes.

The new program builds on a counseling service that the county has provided for more than a decade to homeowners older than 62 who are interested in a reverse mortgage.

It will assist those homeowners in cases where they are later unable to pay taxes or homeowners insurance after the reverse mortgage money has dried up.

"As we’ve been doing this more and more, some of these people are really in that financial crisis," said Lorraine Joewono, director of county senior services. "Even with a reverse mortgage, they’re going to use that money up within a few years."

A reverse mortgage allows a homeowner to draw down the home’s equity value for cash, typically for living expenses. The homeowner can take the money in a lump sum, line of credit or monthly payments and the withdrawals, plus interest, are repaid when the house is sold.

"The addition of legal counseling to our existing Reverse Mortgage Counseling Program will help protect our seniors, and will be another tool in Bergen County’s continuum of services that helps our residents age in place," said Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Tracy Zur.

The program complements multiple county initiatives such as Meals on Wheels, home repair and maintenance programs that aim to help seniors "age in place" and put off entering a nursing home or having to sell their homes and leave the area, said Joewono.

"We know that many of our seniors want to stay in their homes, which is why it’s so important to support and expand our programs that let our residents continue to live independently and comfortably," said Freeholder John A. Felice.

Although borrowers are not required to repay the reverse mortgage until they leave the home, they must still pay all property taxes and homeowner insurance premiums.

The program will help homeowners who fall behind by first trying to negotiate a repayment plan between the homeowner and lender.

If that plan fails or if the lender rejects it, then homeowners can also tap legal services during the foreclosure process.

Ron Romano, county reverse mortgage counselor, said that he works with people in their 70s all the way up to centenarians who want to remain in their homes and are interested in a reverse mortgage.
Low-income seniors on average have an annual income of $15,000 or less, Romano said. And a reverse mortgage can help someone with a limited income to continue to live in their home.

The reverse mortgage isn’t for everyone, he said. Often if the homeowner is seeking the money for home upgrades or repairs, he can direct them to other county or state assistance programs.

Over the past decade the program has assisted 2,000 county Bergen County homeowners.

Until 2014, 85 percent to 95 percent of those who sought reverse mortgage counseling eventually obtained the mortgage.

But Romano said that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development instituted more stringent requirements for the loans last year, and the portion of those who get counseling on the mortgages and then obtain them has dropped to about 70 percent.

Romano said that the county program is the only HUD-certified face-to-face counseling service focused on reverse mortgages in New Jersey, Joewono said.

The $20,000 approved Wednesday will pay up to $900 per client through Northeast New Jersey Legal Services.

Full Article & Source:
Bergen OKs aid for needy seniors facing foreclosure

1 comment:

Betty said...

Reverse mortgages were all the rage. Now we're finding out they aren't that good at all.