According to psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the most basic things humans must have are: air, water, food, and shelter. This is followed by the need for security, stability, protection, and the freedom from fear, anxiety and chaos.

Someone who lacks these basics has difficulty functioning on a higher level, focusing solely on survival, according to Maslow. In the case of foreclosure, what some may view simply as a financial issue is potentially a readiness issue.

In southern Florida, U.S. Army Garrison - Miami is continuing to partner with other public and private agencies to educate members of the South Florida military community who are concerned, in default, or facing foreclosure; to give them tools to empower and protect them so they can avoid foreclosure and minimize financial damage.

Florida has the second highest foreclosure rate in the country, said Rich Zimmelman, garrison financial readiness counselor. "One doesn't have to look far within the general population to see that people are suffering."

Homebuyers can be put under strain for a variety of different reasons, Zimmelman said. One cause can be an adjustable rate mortgage, which can rise after an initial low rate. "In this situation, their mortgage payments rise while the theoretical resale value of the home declines, creating a situation called negative equity where even if a house was sold, the seller would still owe money on it."

Even for those who rent, a foreclosure can cause hardship. When a landlord's property is foreclosed, their contract is void, Zimmelman said. Following the foreclosure of a property, the bank or new owner can quickly force a tenant to move.

Zimmelman has been working for several months to provide educational opportunities for the greater military community of South Florida. "I refer people to those who do this everyday," he said. "It's great that we can have these other agencies come and bring their subject matter experts to help educate our service members."

The Federal Reserve Board, Federal Housing Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veteran's Administration Loan Guaranty Center, aided by several approved counseling services such as the Legal Services of Greater Miami, held a four-hour briefing July 1 at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement building.

More than 35 participants learned about budget management and counseling services for those who potentially face a default situation, as well as legal and financial services.

John Acosta, with the Veterans Administration, took the opportunity to mention the Specially Adapted Housing Program, to help severe combat injured veterans to buy or modify existing homes to accommodate their needs. More than 135 grants and loans have been made and accepted in southern Florida so far, he said.

Help exists to offer alternatives to foreclosure, Acosta said.

These include payment assistance, repayment plans, special forbearance, loan modification, refunding, compromise sales and private sales. All are preferable to outright foreclosure.

"No veteran is going to lose his home, not if I have anything to say about it," he said.

George Diaz, of Neighborhood Housing Services, said evaluating what you are getting into beforehand can mitigate many of the problems associated with accepting more debt than you can handle, believing that the market will allow a quick turnover - and profit - on a home.

"Put down on paper what your budget is, and stick to it," he said. Applying standard rules of thumb, a mortgage should be no more than 35 percent of your income, and your non-mortgage debt should be no more than 40 percent of your mortgage.

"Most people who are buying a home to live in, rather than sell, are going to be OK, but if the worst happens, there are many things you can do," Diaz said. "Use the system, and most importantly, don't give up. There are so many things you can do."

A briefing available to the general public is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., Saturday, July 26 at Boyd Anderson High School, Zimmelman said. There is no registration required. HUD-approved counseling agencies will be on-hand to provide confidential counseling.

Boyd Anderson High School is located at 3050 NW 41st Street, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla, 33309. The event is sponsored by the office of Congressman Alcee Hastings and the cities of Lauderdale Lakes and North Lauderdale.

Participants include:
- Broward County Housing and Community Development
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Federal Housing Agency
- National Association of Real Estate Brokers
- Freddie Mac
- With ownership, comes Wealth, Inc.

Further resources are available at:
Legal Services of Greater Miami, (305) 576-0080, www.lsgmi.org
FHA mortgages, 1-888-297-8685
Veteran's Affairs, 1-888-611-5916, www.homeloans.va.gov
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (www.nacba.org/attorneyfinder/)
Neighborhood Housing Services HOPE Hotline, 1-888-995-4673, jennferu@mdnhs.org

Page last updated Thu July 17th, 2008 at 12:26