Program to fight foreclosures lacks punch

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013 6:13 pm | Updated: 6:20 pm, Fri Nov 15, 2013.

SARASOTA, Fla. - A program that dedicates more than a billion dollars to help fight foreclosure in Florida struggles to make an impact. For all the possible cures for the state's foreclosure crisis, real estate attorney Anne Weintraub has consistently pointed to the same one.

“Principal balance reduction,” she says.

That is, people not having to pay as much of their mortgage back as when they bought their home. The Florida hardest hit fund means to help. It will pay past due amounts, and future payments, up to 42-thousand dollars. But to qualify, you had to have lost your job, or at least ten percent of your income.

“So the issue we have here is even if you're getting a principal balance reduction, it's a drop in the bucket,” Weintraub says.

Also, you can only sign up on the Florida Hardest Hit Fund website (https://www.flhardesthithelp.org). People have reported long delays getting any response, even as the clock on their foreclosures keeps ticking. And scammers have hit the program so hard, the home page of its website warns you to stay away from some companies claiming to take part, and reminds people that applying is free. With all that, the billion dollars Florida has gotten from the program has not reached enough people, Weintraub believes.

“Most of the people that I see in my office, they are employed, but they have expenses,” she says. “They have children. They have things that are exceeding these requirements. In my opinion, it's not broad-based enough.”

And foreclosures keep coming. As banks digest the law to speed them up that Florida lawmakers passed this year, expect to see foreclosure filings pick up again just after Christmas.

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