Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by U.S. Department of the Treasury officials to announce the success of his Illinois Hardest Hit Program and urge homeowners to apply for up to $35,000 in mortgage payment assistance by Sept. 30 when the program ends. Since taking office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Governor Quinn has worked hard to keep Illinois families in their homes. In the last year, properties in foreclosure have dropped to 73,688, a nearly 29 percent decrease from last year, and the downward trend continues in Illinois.
"The housing market is showing signs of recovery, but foreclosure remains a real threat for many homeowners," Governor Quinn said. "The Illinois Hardest Hit program has helped thousands of struggling Illinois homeowners, and I encourage every resident in need to act now and access this important federal resource to keep their home."
Launched by the governor in September 2011, and making significant impact in 2012 and 2013, the Illinois Hardest Hit program assists homeowners who have experienced an income reduction due to unemployment or substantial underemployment. The program makes mortgage payments on behalf of the borrower for up to 18 months, or $35,000 per household. The assistance allows eligible households to maintain their home while they work to regain employment and financial stability.
Governor Quinn today encouraged homeowners to apply for the Hardest Hit program from the home of Harriett Edmonds, who in 2011 lost her job and was unable to make mortgage payments due to providing care for her ailing mother. After learning about the Illinois Hardest Hit program online, Ms. Edmonds was approved for assistance in June 2012. The program allowed her to stay in her home while she looked for a full-time job. Ms. Edmonds will start a new job on Monday as a grant manager for a Chicago-based foundation.
"Thanks to the Illinois Hardest Hit program, I was able to keep my home while I continued my job search," Edmonds said. "I'm happy to start a new job on Monday with my home intact."
IHDA was awarded $445 million in federal foreclosure prevention resources under the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund (HHF). Illinois, one of 18 states and the District of Columbia to receive HHF funding, is closing the application process due to projections based on past approval and assistance levels.
"Illinois Hardest Hit is a successful example of federal, state and local officials working together to get real relief to families struggling with their mortgage payments," Treasury's Acting Chief of Homeownership Preservation Mark McArdle said. "The U.S. Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund leverages local knowledge to get federal aid to homeowners in hard hit communities. The successes of Illinois and other states will provide important lessons learned from the housing crisis about the most effective ways to help homeowners avoid foreclosure."
To date, 9,000 homeowners have been helped in 96 of the 102 counties in Illinois. Over the last year, the Illinois Hardest Hit program approved an average of 474 households a month. Each qualifying homeowner received mortgage assistance averaging $33,000. By increasing the amount of assistance from $25,000 to $35,000 last spring, the program will help an additional 1,200 homeowners who otherwise wouldn't have qualified.
"Governor Quinn created the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network to provide homeowners with a free, centralized source of trustworthy information so they can find the resource that is best for their situation," IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said. "I encourage anyone who is facing foreclosure, or is at risk of foreclosure, to act now."
Governor Quinn today also signed two new laws to combat mortgage fraud in the state of Illinois. Sponsored by State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago), House Bill 2832 provides a legal tool to protect property owners and help county recorders address the growing problem of fraudulent filings at county recorders' offices. Especially common in Cook and Kane Counties, groups such as "Sovereign Citizens" strategically file a multitude of false legal documents in an effort to cloud the title records and attempt to steal property, intimidate owners, or falsely sell the property of homeowners. Victims are often elderly homeowners. The bill was an initiative of the Cook County Recorder's Office. The law takes effect immediately.
The second bill, HB 2905 - sponsored by State Representative Marcus Evans, Jr. (D-Chicago) and State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) - amends the Criminal Code of 2012 to increase the penalty for knowingly filing false claims of ownership or interest in property. Currently, the offense -referred to as unlawful clouding of title - is a Class A misdemeanor which means no state jail time is served. HB 2905 makes unlawful clouding of title a Class A misdemeanor only when it is the offender's first offense and the amount at issue is under $10,000. However, if it is the offender's second or subsequent offense, or if the amount at issue is over $10,000, then HB 2905 increases the offense to a Class 4 felony. The law takes effect Jan.1, 2014.
Today's announcement is part of Governor Quinn's commitment to keep Illinois families in their homes and drive our economy forward. In 2012, Governor Quinn launched the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN), a one-stop comprehensive, free resource to connect struggling homeowners with assistance to keep them in their homes and help them from being victims of mortgage fraud. Approximately 846,000 families have accessed this free assistance through the IFPN.
Anyone seeking assistance under the Illinois Hardest Hit program, or researching other foreclosure prevention resources, should visit the IFPN website at www.keepyourhomeillinois.org or call the hotline at 855-KEEP-411.