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State program helps thousands avoid foreclosure

Posted December 21, 2009

— A program launched a year ago has helped more than 2,500 North Carolina homeowners avoid foreclosure, officials said Monday.

More than 5,000 other homeowners have met with nonprofit housing counselors to get free advice and assistance in dealing with their finances and mortgage problems under the State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project, officials said.

Tiffany Birdsong, used Home Protection Program to avoid foreclosure Avoiding foreclosure is early gift for many

Tiffany Birdsong, who lost her job as an accountant for Caterpillar Inc. in March, is among the growing number of people who have been able to stay in their homes because of the program.

Birdsong said bills have piled up in recent months, and she has missed the last few mortgage payments as she struggled to make ends meet. She said avoiding foreclosure was her one Christmas wish this year.

"This is what I dreamed of my whole life, to have my own home," she said. "I got my Christmas gift early. I'm ecstatic. I'm happy."

Foreclosure filings in North Carolina are up 14 percent this year over 2008 because of the economic downturn and job losses, compared with an 18 percent increase nationwide, officials said. Yet, the state's foreclosure rate ranks 36th nationally, according to RealtyTrac’s latest foreclosure report.

“We are thrilled our program has given so many homeowners the tools they need to avoid foreclosure,” Mark Pearce, the chief deputy commissioner of banks, said in a statement. “At the same time, the current economy has led many homeowners to struggle for the first time to pay their mortgage and other bills. We urge these homeowners to call our state hotline to get help from experienced counselors.”

Pearce and other officials estimated that avoiding foreclosures on 2,500 homes so far has prevented $218 million in losses to neighboring property values and in losses to the financial system.

The State Home Foreclosure Prevention Project uses 34 nonprofit counseling agencies across the state and one national nonprofit phone counseling agency to provide assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. Homeowners seeking help can call 1-866-234-4857 toll-free from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

Harriett Reynolds, a counselor with Triangle Family Services, said she's helped dozens of clients qualify for assistance under the state's Home Protection Program. The major guidelines to qualify involve credit and employment history, she said.

"It was put into place to help people who lost their jobs through changing economic conditions," Reynolds said.

Birdsong will now receive mortgage assistance, including payments for property taxes and homeowner's insurance for at least the next nine months and could benefit for as long as two years. She said she's most relieved that her three children will be able to spend the holidays at home.

"Each one of them has their own room. They're like, 'It's mine,'" said Birdsong, a widow. "I wouldn't want to take that from them. They've had enough problems already."

14 Comments

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  • 3779LRRP Dec 23, 11:28 a.m.

    Helping people get through trying times is OK by me. BUT.. The money that helped people get through those times by paying mortgage payments and property taxes should be PAID back somewhere down the line. Houses should NOT be free ride to be paid for by the working masses.

  • babbleon Dec 22, 11:23 a.m.

    Hmmm - Garnerwolf, that is interesting. This debate is based on whether the individual merits help, not the gov't role in providing help. It's strange. I prefer the arguments on the gov't role - there's more data to work with.

  • Garnerwolf1 Dec 22, 11:10 a.m.

    Interesting that the comments seem to be based on whether or not she should have bought a house, when comments on most stories that deal with state money simply scream CUT!

  • babbleon Dec 22, 10:45 a.m.

    Foxtrot - how long would you last if you lost your job and couldn't find another one? Would you make it the 14 months many people are dealing with now?

    I'd make it for about 8 months, because I do plan - financial planners only recommend saving for 6mo. In this economoy, that's "close" to Ms. Birdsong.

    You certainly can say bad things about people, but base it on FACTS - she's not a crack addict.

  • babbleon Dec 22, 10:39 a.m.

    Foxtrot: It's not a double standard - it's that I choose not to make assumptions when there is no evidence. My assumption is based on her former employment and ability to support a family. There is no reference to her non-mortgage bills at all, either cutting them or not.

    What has black got to do with it?

  • babbleon Dec 22, 10:31 a.m.

    OC: Our country needs more responsible citizens, she is not one.

    PUHLEEZE! Based on your statement and her situation, then no one should get married, just in case their spouse dies. People should never have kids, even if their current income would support children. People should plan for 14 months of unemployment from an accounting position, because that happens so often. (14 months is when Cat did their second layoffs; it may have been longer).

    Responsibility is a good thing - I will never buy a house on the outer banks - but sometimes too much happens for anyone to deal with. She will be back in a job as soon as one opens up - she wants to support her kids in a good life as much as we want her to.

    OC, you keep coming back to the house - it is NOT a liquid asset. It's not like selling a cake or a table saw.

  • 3stoogesfan Dec 22, 10:24 a.m.

    I don't understand why she bought such an expensive house if she was making the payments on her own. I'm sure the house payment was probably taking the majority of her paycheck before she lost her job. If I remember correctly, a house payment should be no more than 1/4 of your income and I know that's hard nowadays but you do have to allow for other bills.

  • babbleon Dec 22, 10:18 a.m.

    3 kids, WIDOW. Not a divorce, not unmarried.

    As I said, white collar jobs are scarce in this market. From my friends who have lost jobs, the job hunt is long and brutal - very few positions available that pay more than unemployment, and a lot of applicants for those positions.

    I know how close you and I and everyone else is to being in her situation, and how little we can do to prevent being there. I am glad there are programs like this, and I see no reason why she doesn't deserve a little help until the job market improves.

    The crack addict comment still makes no sense - either irrelevant or really insulting. Which is it?

  • OrdinaryCitizen Dec 22, 9:58 a.m.

    This person was smart enought to find a job and have her house on the market. She didn't do either and was counting on her own personal bailout from the government.
    3 kids? no father? not my fault this person made bad decisions but its her fault to deal with it. Our society needs more responsible citizens, she is not one.

  • babbleon Dec 22, 9:49 a.m.

    Ordinary, is your head just stuck in the sand? Selling a home is never easy, and in this market, it could be six to twelve months before it sold. It would probably also sell for much less than its market value, and possibly less than the mortgage.

    As far as education, white collar workers are being hurt a lot in this economy. There are not a lot of jobs for ANYONE out there.

    You have assumed she's selfish, based on insufficient evidence. I would be ashamed to judge someone without knowing more about them.

    And your crack addict / multiple kids comment was either irrelevant or horribly insulting. It colors the rest of your post in an ugly way.

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