We called it a band-aid, and at least for some South Florida homeowners, it’s proving to be just that. The Palm Beach Post profiled several homeowners who were among the first to receive benefits from the program. Sheryl Stuart, a Jupiter homeowner whose business went under, applied for help through the mortgage relief program, and is about to see her payments end next month. Hardest Hit only entitles qualified homeowners up to six months of mortgage assistance.
Stuart told the Palm Beach Post that even though she’s found a new job, her salary won’t be able to cover her mortgage payment once she stops receiving aid from Hardest Hit. She’s frustrated that she’s about to be right back where she started when she applied for aid in the first place.
“In this economy, to think you can turn your life around in six months is totally ludicrous,” Stuart said in the article, “The working class is quickly slipping into a black hole.”
The truth is this program, however well-intentioned it might have been, is just not enough. What Hardest Hit is essentially doing is giving homeowners a nice seafood dinner, when they really need to learn how to fish.
It scratches the surface but for people like Stuart it might just delay the inevitable. Unless you’re giving homeowners a solid two years of payment relief, you’re not giving these people time to go back to school, improve their financial standing, and really turn their lives around.
Hardest Hit is throwing good money after bad, and really, what’s the point of spending all this money if it won’t provide permanent relief?
Not to mention that many homeowners have been rejected by the program, nearly 10,000 according to the Post, for reasons including being over 180 days past due on their mortgage. So if many aren’t getting the help they need, and those who are getting the relief aren’t feeling a lasting impact, what’s the point?
Spokeswoman Cecka Green told the Post the state is going through uncharted waters with Hardest Hit, and it looks to us like the state wasn’t truly prepared to handle the demand.
“We never really anticipated where we would be at this point since we had not ever before administered a program like this,” Green said.
Helping people make their payments isn’t the answer. We were elated when the Federal Reserve started talking about principal reduction, that’s a much better solution that ultimately has a chance of keeping people in their homes.
If we allowed homeowners facing foreclosure to lease back their properties, that too would have a higher success rate, in our opinion. If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that banks make the worst neighbors.
Florida’s Hardest Hit was doomed from the get-go, so it’s time to focus on systematic long-term solutions.