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Consumer Watch: HAP deadline

Apply for mortgage help by Sept. 30

Aug. 23, 2012 - 08:16PM   |   Last Updated: Aug. 23, 2012 - 08:16PM  |  
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Homeowner help

As of July 24, the federal Homeowners Assistance Program had received more than 17,100 applications. Of those, 11,743 had been determined to be eligible, and 8,469 had received a payout. Another 837 were being processed for payment, with the rest in various stages of the verification process.

If you have moved on reassignment orders during the mortgage crisis — and therefore may be eligible for help under the temporarily expanded Homeowners Assistance Program — the deadline to apply is approaching.

The Sept. 30 deadline set by the Defense Department also applies to those who may qualify due to a move related to base realignment and closure during the mortgage crisis.

To qualify under the permanent change-of-station category, service members must have bought their houses, or signed the contract, before July 1, 2006. In addition, the Pentagon restricted the benefit in this category to those who moved on orders dated between Feb. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2010.

As of July 24, HAP had paid out $1.384 billion to 8,021 service members applying under the PCS category, said DoD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin. For these service members, that meant a financial benefit of up to 90 percent of the original purchase price of their home, an average payout of $172,571. That's kept a lot of military families from going through short sales or other financial hardships.

If you've moved and taken losses and otherwise are eligible, you can still apply. Just know there are 2,437 applicants ahead of you who have been determined to be eligible.

But "it is premature to conclude that the remaining 2,437 eligible applicants will receive a financial benefit until they complete all actions or documentation requirements and we ensure sufficient funds are available to make a payout," Irwin said.

Congress originally appropriated $555 million for HAP, and later added another $300 million. Defense officials transferred $507 million more to HAP this year. As of July 24, $259 million was available to pay out benefits, and the account is receiving more money as it sells homes that were acquired through the program.

"DoD continually monitors whether additional funds are needed based on applications received," Irwin said.

BRAC-related eligibility effectively ended Sept. 15, when BRAC actions were to be completed.

"After [one to two years], the military and civilian members should have already relocated," Irwin said.

This deadline does not apply to those in the categories of wounded, ill and injured, and surviving spouses of the fallen.

Homeowners who became wounded, injured or ill in the line of duty while deployed since Sept. 11, 2001, and are relocating for further medical treatment, as well as surviving spouses relocating within two years after the death of their service member, will remain eligible for HAP permanently.

HAP dates back to 1966, when it was created to provide financial assistance to homeowners when a BRAC-related action severely impacts the local real estate market.

Eligibility rules and application forms can be found on the Army Corps of Engineers website at http://hap.usace.army.mil. The Army Corps of Engineers administers the program.

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