It’s the beginning of the end of Step Forward Michigan

The fund that has helped thousands of Michigan homeowners stay in their homes over the past five years is almost gone.

MSHDA has officially announced that they will cease accepting applications as of Dec. 31, 2015 for the Step Forward Michigan program. Since 2010, over 28,381 homeowners struggling to maintain mortgage payments and property tax bills have received assistance through this fund. Housing counseling agencies, county treasurer’s and mortgage company’s will now have to find different ways to assist homeowners struggling to maintain payments as our economy slowly rebounds from the recent recession.

Many Michigan homeowners were affected by the housing crisis that began in 2007. Property values dropped, unemployment was prevalent and some areas of the country were hit harder than others. In February, 2010, Michigan was declared a Hardest Hit state by the U.S. Treasury and received $498.6 million dollars to offer assistance to help homeowners stay in their homes. These funds were used to help homeowners catch up on mortgage payments, subsidize payments while receiving unemployment compensation, apply principal reductions to underwater homes and to eliminate some of the blight resulting from abandoned homes throughout the state.

In 2012, the Attorney Generals in 49 states settled with the five largest mortgage servicers for $25 billion for mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. From this settlement, Michigan received an additional $97 million to continue helping beleaguered homeowners stay in their homes. In 2013, the Step Forward Michigan program expanded to assisting homeowners who had no mortgage but had fallen behind on their property taxes.

Now, the fund is running out of money and MSHDA is winding down the highly successful program. For homeowners still facing hardships causing financial problems, there is still time to apply for assistance. MSU Extension housing counselors can help homeowners fill out the application, submit all the required documents, and follow-up until a decision is made. During the past five years, thousands of Michigan homeowners who worked with our counselors have received assistance to save their homes from foreclosure.

So, if you are struggling to make a mortgage payment or if there are past due property taxes on your home from 2013 to the present, don’t wait to apply for assistance. There must have been a hardship that caused financial stress on the household such as unemployment, medical expenses or a large unexpected repair bill. Once Dec. 31, 2015 comes, applications will no longer be accepted for this program.

To contact an expert in your area, visit the expert webpage, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy. For more information of classes in your area, go to either the events website or the MI Money Health website. Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health.

Michigan State University Extension has released a new toolkit for homeowners who are experiencing or have previously experienced foreclosure. This toolkit will equip these individuals and families with tools to help them recover their financial stability, in the case that a recovery of their home is not possible. The toolkit is available to download free at the MI Money Health website.

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