Preventing Texas Foreclosures
by: Laurie Johnson, April 17, 2008 5:04:00 pm
Here in Texas, about 150,000 families foreclose on their homes every year. Nearly a third of them live in Houston.
Houston hasn't suffered in the same way as the rest of the country.
Houston Mayor Bill White says the local economy is strong, but there are still thousands of homeowners in Houston who are on the verge of foreclosure.
"It is not a source of shame if you find yourself in a situation where you can't meet that payment. Obviously, if you can make the payment, make it. Don't mess up your credit. But there are people, especially those who have some of these mortgages that had exploding payments where the payments went up all of a sudden and they spiked, who are just struggling to get by."
And that's where the Texas Foreclosure Prevention Task Force comes in. Michael Gerber is the executive director of the Texas Department of Housing. He says many people lose their homes simply because they don't know what to do when they can't make a payment.
"Foreclosure does not have to happen and their is nothing worse than doing nothing. Our focus is to work to increase the level of awareness among Texans regarding the counseling services, repayment and loan restructuring options that are available to them. And specifically we're working to educate homeowners about professional foreclosure prevention counseling services that are available to them at no cost right here in Houston that can help them avoid or survive a foreclosure."
The task force doesn't provide mortgage payment assistance. Instead it's aimed at getting connecting people with the right information. Mayor White says a lot of people are afraid to call their lender or sometimes just embarrassed to admit they don't have the money for the mortgage.
"Don't just not pay and wait and see what happens. That's the worst thing you can do. Seek assistance."
One of the first steps the members of the task force recommend is to call the national Homeowner's HOPE hotline which is 888-995-HOPE.
The 24-hour service will connect people with financial counselors and mortgage assistance programs.
Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.