Published: Nov 12, 2013 3:09 PM EST
Updated: Nov 12, 2013 3:10 PM EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Tuesday via conference call, Florida Housing Finance Corporation (Florida Housing), in cooperation with Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA), Fannie Mae and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury), launched the Elderly Mortgage Assistance Program (ELMORE). The application process will opened Tuesday at noon.

Using $25 million in federal funding allotted to Florida from the Treasury’s Hardest-Hit Fund (HHF), the ELMORE program will assist elderly homeowners with home equity conversion mortgages (HECMs)—better known as “reverse mortgages”—who, as a result of a hardship, are having difficulty making property tax and homeowner’s insurance payments. As a result, these homeowners may be facing foreclosure for non-payment of these required expenses.

“There are thousands of reverse mortgages in Florida that are in delinquency,” said Florida Housing Executive Director Steve Auger, executive director for Florida Housing. “After implementing other HHF programs that target the more ‘traditional’ homeowner, it is now time to help homeowners who are in the twilight of their years, on a fixed income, experiencing a hardship and facing foreclosure. This new program should help them sustain their homes, while they look at ways to free-up income to pay their homeowner expenses moving forward.”

Homeowners who meet specific qualifications may be eligible for a two-year, forgivable loan of up to $25,000. The funds will be distributed to the mortgage servicer, on the homeowner’s behalf, in a lump sum to repay property-related expenses advanced by the servicer (e.g., property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance and association fees). Funds may also be used to pay upcoming property-related expenses for up to 12 months.

“The Obama Administration is committed to helping states like Florida find innovative ways to help homeowners avoid foreclosure,” said Chief Homeownership Preservation Officer Mark McArdle, for Treasury. “This program will provide much needed assistance to elderly homeowners with reverse mortgages, and Treasury is proud to partner with the State of Florida to implement it.”  

“We commend the Florida Housing Finance Corporation for launching this new initiative to help elderly homeowners with reverse mortgages stay in their homes,” said Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Carol Galante. “The HECM program allows senior citizens to age in place by tapping into their home equity to help pay expenses. The ELMORE program builds on this goal by giving qualified seniors who have experienced financial hardship an alternative to foreclosure.”

 “In accordance with the Older Americans Act, it is the mission of the Department of Elder Affairs to address the needs of Florida seniors and to create an environment that allows them to remain in their own homes and communities as they age, said Florida DOEA Secretary Charles T. Corley. “We support tools, such as the ELMORE Program, that help to accomplish this important task.”

“We are pleased to partner with Florida Housing on this important initiative for our struggling homeowners,” said Joy Cianci, senior vice president of Making Home Affordable® and Foreclosure Prevention at Fannie Mae. “We commend them for being the first state to implement a program to assist elderly homeowners in reverse mortgages with resources from the Hardest-Hit Fund and hope to see other states soon follow suit.”

Reverse mortgages offer unique benefits to elderly homeowners, allowing them to access the equity in their homes.  However, with a reverse mortgage, homeowners have specific responsibilities that are set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which insures most reverse mortgages, including the timely payment of property-related expenses. If the homeowner falls behind on those obligations, the servicer may issue a demand for payment-in-full of the reverse mortgage or even foreclose on the property. The ELMORE program—for those who qualify and demonstrate they will be able to reasonably recover from the hardship that contributed to the property-related expenses becoming delinquent—can be the support that an elderly homeowner needs to ensure their home is preserved.

Florida homeowners with reverse mortgages who want to see if they qualify for the ELMORE program should first contact their reverse mortgage servicer. If the servicer is unable to assist, a homeowner should then contact the toll-free ELMORE Application and Information Line at 1-(800) 601-3534to apply and/or receive more information on the program. Additional information is available at the ELMORE program website at www.FloridaELMORE.org or www.KnowYourOptions.com/reverse.

First announced on February 19, 2010, by the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury), the “Housing Finance Agency (HFA) Innovation Fund for the Hardest-Hit Housing Markets” (HFA Hardest-Hit Fund) provides federal funding to states hardest hit by the aftermath of the burst of the housing bubble. To date, $7.6 billion has been infused into the HFA Hardest-Hit Fund for 18 states and the District of Columbia; Florida’s allocation stands at more than $1 billion. The goal is to help create sustainable homeownership in our state.