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For immediate release Tuesday, February 24, 2009.
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699 or
rbrammer@ag.state.ia.us

Miller: Thousands of Iowans Assisted
by Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline

Hotline marks one-year anniversary.
Attorney General encourages more Iowans to call.

Des Moines. The Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline has modified hundreds of loans and helped thousands of Iowans in its first year -- but Attorney General Tom Miller said there are many more Iowans who might be able to avoid foreclosure by calling the Hotline.

“The first step is to call the toll-free hotline at 877-622-4866,” Miller said, “or visit the website at www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.” The Hotline is free, confidential, and open to all Iowans, Miller said. Hotline calls are answered weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline was created in February 2008 by Miller and the Iowa Finance Authority with a $1.5 million federal grant. Other partners in the Iowa Mortgage Help program include Iowa Mediation Service, the Iowa Home Ownership Education Project (IHOEP), Iowa Legal Aid, and many local credit counseling organizations around the state. Another partner, Strategic America, has helped develop a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage Iowans in need to call for help.

“Iowa’s program was one of the first in the nation and it remains one of the very best,” Miller said. “The program is working. It is saving Iowans from foreclosure.”

Miller added that the Hotline will be working in the future to help Iowans take advantage of the federal foreclosure prevention program announced last week by President Obama. “The Hotline will help implement the program as details are finalized,” he said. “The national program will set a standard for loan modifications pegged at an affordable rate of 31% of income. I think it will do a lot of good for homeowners, communities, and the country.”

Iowa Mortgage Help is succeeding in helping Iowa homeowners.

Since its inception a year ago, the statewide Hotline has taken an estimated 5,500 intake calls, and received over 3,700 applications. Iowans have called from all 99 counties.

Miller said some statistical measures indicate Iowa’s Mortgage Help Hotline is helping reduce foreclosures in Iowa. The latest national statistics from the end of the third quarter 2008 indicate that the percentage of Iowa sub-prime loans starting foreclosure only increased 9% compared to the same period a year earlier, less than expected given the avalanche of foreclosures nationwide, and less than the national average which increased by about 33%.

“The Hotline deserves some of the credit for Iowa doing better than the national average,” Miller said. He also said reports show promising outcomes for many people who are contacting the Hotline and the local counseling agencies – about half of the cases reported are still in progress, a quarter of the cases have had a positive final result, and only about 6 percent of the cases have had the kind of negative final result that most people fear, including foreclosure.

Miller said that whenever possible, the program emphasizes loan modifications (where interest rates are reduced or other changes are made to the loan terms to help the borrower.) In fact, about 20% of all cases reported have resulted in loan modifications. Miller added that as the program resolves more cases that are still pending, the success rate likely will be even better.

Miller was joined at the news conference by Maureen and John Nixon of Des Moines, and Steven Foster, also of Des Moines, who have received assistance from the Hotline. Each credited the Hotline with negotiating a modification of their loan that enabled them to stay in their homes.

Steven Foster, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Maureen and John Nixon (left to right).
Steven Foster, Attorney General Tom Miller, and Maureen and John Nixon (left to right). Foster and the Nixons were able to modify their mortgages with the assistance of the Iowa Mortgage Help program. Interest rates were lowered on their mortgages, and they were able to keep their homes.

The Hotline, which is run by a coalition of organizations, provides services to Iowans including counseling, negotiation of loan modifications, and other forms of loss mitigation. “Where we can’t save the home, we can still help prepare the family for a ‘soft landing’ instead of a crash,” Miller said.

The Iowa Finance Authority received a federal grant of $1.5 million to fund the program a year ago. A recent extension of that grant and the award of a second grant will allow the program to continue at least through the end of 2009. The grants fund and expand a hotline originally started by Miller and the Iowa Mediation Service in September 2007, which, at the time, was one of only a few in the nation.

“Iowans should call the Mortgage Help Hotline if they are currently struggling or as soon as they think they may be headed toward financial difficulty,” Miller said. “That one free call could help save your home.”

The toll-free number for Iowa Mortgage Help is 877-622-4866. More information is also available at www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.

When Iowans call the Hotline, operators will gather basic data and will refer the callers' cases to one of the local counseling agencies around the state that are part of Iowa Mortgage Help. The certified counselors then will gather more in-depth financial information and will determine the level of counseling that is needed.

If a caller's situation only requires fairly basic counseling, such as help with managing personal finances, the case will be handled by the local counseling agency. If a caller's situation is more complex -- and requires interaction with the mortgage servicer or lender -- the caller likely will go back and work with Iowa Mediation Service to facilitate a loan modification, if possible.

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Media may download a high-resolution jpeg of the Iowa Mortgage Help logo from the newsroom at www.IowaMortgageHelp.com.

Following is a list of Iowa Mortgage Help initiative sub-grantees including local counseling agencies participating in the Iowa Mortgage Help initiative:

Iowa Mediation Service, West Des Moines (also offices in Spencer, Mason City, Cedar Rapids). Contact: Mike Thompson, 515-331-8081

Iowa Home Ownership Education Project (IHOEP), Des Moines. IHOEP supports quality home ownership education in Iowa. The following local housing counseling agencies are members of IHOEP participating in the Iowa Mortgage Help program. Contact: Stephanie Preusch 515-229-7737.

Center for Siouxland, Sioux City
Contact: Jonette Spurlock, 712-252-1861 ext. 12

Community Housing Initiatives, Spencer
Contact: Chris Sill 712-262-5640 x26

Family Housing Advisory Services, Council Bluffs
Contact: Trudi Martin - Ahlstrom 712-322-4436

Family Management Credit Counselors, Inc., Waterloo
Contact: Katy Hackett, 319-234-6695

Fort Dodge Housing Agency, Ft. Dodge
Contact: Audra McKinney 515-955-7685

Home Inc., Des Moines.
Contact: Pam Carmichael 515-243-1277

Operation Threshold, Waterloo (Also offices in Independence and Grundy Center)
Contact: Barbara A. Grant, (319) 291-2065

United Neighbors, Inc., Davenport
Contact: Dawn Mutum-Plies, 563-322-7363 Ext. 205

 

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