Help is available for Soldiers, civilians during tough economic times
September 10, 2009
FORT EUSTIS, Va. (September 10, 2009) -- America's military have plenty on their plate with lengthy and repeated deployments, Base Realignment and Closures, and permanent change of station orders, but the nation's recent subprime mortgage collapse just adds to the list. As the crisis continues its sweep across the nation, more and more of Hampton Roads' military community are feeling its effects.
An Aug. 13 article in The Virginian Pilot reported more than 900 foreclosure actions filed in July.
Although the foreclosure rate in Hampton Roads did experience a slight decrease in July, nationwide the rate continues to rise with more than 360,000 foreclosure actions filed during the same period with many of these actions directed at active-duty military and Department of Defense civilians.
Dave Michaud, senior mortgage consultant for Union Mortgage Group in Virginia Beach, says some of the problems in the housing market are the result of liberal lending practices in the years between 2003 through 2005.
"I think the loan products that were so liberal then contributed to this with mortgage products that offered people homes that they really shouldn't have been buying," Michaud said in a telephone interview.
Besides rising unemployment and a stagnant real estate market, active-duty military and DoD civilians face other hurdles to home affordability and sustainability. Base Realignment and Closure announcements and permanent change of station orders may put many military members and DoD civilians and their families in dire financial straits.
In a March Homefrontonline.com article Rick Sharga, a senior vice president for the online foreclosure-monitoring service RealtyTrac.com, stated that one out of 44 service members experiences foreclosure, compared to one out of every 40 homeowners in the civilian sector.
Although the subprime mortgage crisis, the national economic slump and rising unemployment are the reasons most cited for the rising number of foreclosures throughout the nation, military and DoD civilians face other obstacles to home affordability and sustainability.
Help is available to service members and DoD civilians through several federal programs that include the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2008, the Homeowners Assistance Program and the Department of Defense National Relocation Program. These programs offer options and solutions to military and DoD civilians facing eviction and foreclosure as well as assistance with home selling and purchasing when moving due to PCS orders or BRAC.
Active-duty military can find relief from foreclosure or eviction, through the Service Members Civil Relief Act of 2008. The SRCA provides service members with a rate cap of 6 percent on home mortgages, a 90-day suspension on a foreclosure or property seizure, and protection from eviction without a court order for rents of $1,200 or less per month.
The SRCA covers all members of active-duty services and Reserve and Guard personnel as well as those Reserve and Guard members activated for service under 32 U.S.C. orders from the president of the United States.
In April, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) proposed changes to the act to provide stronger safeguards to protect the nation's active-duty military and veterans from home foreclosures.
Under his proposal - the Military Families and Veterans Homes Protection Act of 2009 - Kerry seeks to expand the limit of time on foreclosure from 90 days to nine months and extend the 6 percent capped mortgage interest rate for one year after termination of active military service.
As the housing crisis continues, employment numbers drop and interest rates rise, military members and their families may find it harder and harder to make ends meet and the Army is reaching out to its Soldiers and families with information and support programs to help them get through the crisis.
For active-duty military and federal employees, help is available through the Homeowners Assistance Program. The HAP is beneficial to service members and civilians forced to sell primary residences at a loss due to a decline in the local housing market because of a BRAC action.
The HAP provides assistance in several ways:
1. Eligible applicants may receive up to 95
percent compensation for the difference between
the appraised value of the property before the
BRAC announcement date and the value at
the time of sale following the announcement,
whichever is greater.
2. Military and federal employees may sell the
property to the government for up to 75 percent
of the home's pre-announcement appraised fair
market value or the total outstanding amount
owed after the announcement, whichever is
3. If a foreclosure action has been filed, HAP
may directly reimburse eligible applicants for
foreclosure costs paid by the applicant or pay
benefits to third parties on the applicant's
Additional information about this program is available at www.hap.usace.army.mil.
Another program that provides assistance for homeowners dealing with a BRAC action is the Department of Defense National Relocation Program.
Enacted in 1987, the program provides relocation services to eligible DoD civilians to help them sell their homes at the prior duty station and locate housing at the new duty station as well as a guaranteed home buyout alternative.
Locally, Fort Eustis and Story Soldiers and families can find assistance through Army Community Services. ACS offers active-duty military, veterans and DoD civilians and their families free financial readiness and budgeting classes as well as a free First-time Homebuyers Seminar to be held Wednesday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Bldg. 601 on Lee Boulevard.
For information about these services and programs, call ACS at 878-3638, ext. 221.
Army Emergency Relief also assists Soldiers and families during financial emergencies. For information, call 878-3638, ext. 259.
Soldiers experiencing financial troubles can also receive legal assistance with home foreclosure, eviction, or bankruptcy protection through the Fort Eustis Staff Judge Advocate in Bldg. 2732 on Madison Avenue.
The SJA can help Soldiers delay or obtain protection against foreclosure or eviction through the SCRA, which provides for a 90-day adjournment on a foreclosure action through a local court.
For information, or to meet with a legal assistant attorney, call the Eustis SJA at 878-3031, ext. 222.
Homebuyers and sellers can also find relief with the First-time Homebuyer Tax Credit. Authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the program provides homebuyers with a one-time credit of 10 percent of the purchase price up to $8,000 of a newly-constructed or resale home before Dec. 1.
The credit is available to buyers who have not owned a principal residence in the three years prior to the home purchase and applies to homes sold between Jan. 1 and Dec. 1.
More information can be found at www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com.
Fannie Mae, the nation's largest housing lender, also offers assistance to Americans caught in the housing turmoil through the Housing Affordable Refinance Program.
HARP allows homeowners upside down on their mortgages to refinance. An upside down mortgage is one in which the homebuyer owes more on the property than its current fair market value.
The program is available to homeowners whose homes are worth up to 25 percent less than what is owed.
For instance, if a homeowner owes $100,000 on their mortgage and the home's appraised fair market value is $75,000, the loan qualifies for assistance under the HARP.
Recent reports indicate that the dark clouds hovering over the country's housing market may soon dissipate, as reported in a Daily Press article Aug. 31, which stated that pending home sales on the Peninsula rose 9 percent in July.
Michaud agrees that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think most people are generally feeling that we're probably at the bottom of this crisis. It's going to take time and I do think the first-time homebuyers tax credit is going to be extended and will help alot. That's been huge for us," he said.
Additional resources, help and information are also available online at the following Web sites:
Army OneSource www.myarmyonesource.com
Army Housing One Stop https://onestop.army.
Army JAG www.jagcnet.army.mil