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Housing Solutions Center Offers Practical, Preventive Advice

Free foreclosure-prevention counseling for 50+ homeowners

Housing Solutions Center provides counseling to 50+ homeowners

Counselors can provide solutions homeowners may never have considered.

Foreclosure: It's not a subject anyone really wants to think about until it's absolutely necessary. And that can be a big part of the problem.

Especially in the wake of losing a job — a situation arguably more unsettling for workers in their 50s and early 60s than any other group — the tendency can be to put off concerns, such as how to make up for falling a month or two behind on the mortgage, if they're not right there looming on the doorstep. And so can begin the slippery slope to delinquency (being 90 or more days overdue) and ultimately loss of the home.

Learn more about AARP Foundation.

When it comes to the risk of foreclosure, Ben Franklin's famous aphorism was never truer: An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. Addressing concerns about foreclosure before the actual legal process commences or very early in that process makes things much easier than trying to "cure" foreclosure later on.

And that, in a nutshell, is what the AARP Foundation Housing Solutions Center is all about.

Since the very earliest stages of the economic crisis, members of the AARP Foundation Housing Impact Team have fielded calls, letters and emails from older homeowners concerned about falling behind on their mortgages or even facing the imminent threat of foreclosure. Adopting a grassroots-type approach, team members would put these homeowners in touch with local sources of help. This turned out to be less than an ideal arrangement, as the quality and even the availability of assistance varies widely from community to community across the country.

The notion of assembling a group of vetted, HUD-certified counselors to offer consistent advice via a nationwide toll-free line (855-850-2525) made a lot of sense. And it also made sense to supplement that person-to-person support with educational materials, podcasts and other resources available online. So the Housing Solutions Center was put in place late in 2012, offering free, in-depth foreclosure-prevention advice to 50+ homeowners tailored to their individual situations. Because foreclosures are a particular concern in Hispanic communities, the service was made available in Spanish as well.

The potential benefits are hard to argue with. Counselors used by the Housing Solutions Center have helped more than 60 percent of their clients avoid foreclosure after at least a year. Callers might be surprised by how many options are available to them, from mortgage modifications to specially arranged repayment plans — solutions they'd be hard-pressed to find on their own. And when foreclosure is inevitable, counselors can help ensure the best possible outcome, even facilitating communication with the lender — something homeowners in jeopardy often avoid when trying to deal with the situation on their own.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the Housing Solutions Center is its emphasis on taking steps early on. Indeed, based on data showing that unemployment and underemployment are the chief catalysts of mortgage crises, counselors advise a call to the Housing Solutions Center whenever your income takes a turn for the worse, even if there seems to be no immediate threat to your ability to keep up with housing payments. It's a bit like remembering to change the smoke detector batteries whenever you adjust for daylight savings time: If you're applying for unemployment, giving the Housing Solutions Center a call might very well be your next best step to lessen the financial burden of tough times.

Also of interest: Beware of mortage relief scams!

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Older People And
HOUSING

Whether people 50+ own or rent, the repercussions from the recession are severe - abandoned neighborhoods, rent increases and a decrease in affordable, subsidized housing. Millions of homeowners can neither sell their homes nor receive approval to refinance their mortgages at today’s much lower interest rates. 

 

Today:

  • 19 million adults 50+ live in unaffordable or unsafe housing
  • Nearly 25% of household mortgages are underwater - meaning the mortgage is larger than the current value of the house.
  • Foreclosures have been at record levels.

Housing in the
News

New Technologies to Help Seniors Age in Place

(The Wall Street Journal, June 2014) - As the population grows older, engineers and health experts are searching for new ways to prevent elderly people from injuring themselves at home. In doing so, they hope to keep people in their homes longer, a concept known as aging in place. Read

Government Recalls Bed Rails After Reported Deaths

(AARP, May 2014) - The Consumer Product Safety Commission has announced the voluntary recall of more than 100,000 adult bed rails that it says can pose a serious risk of entrapment, strangulation and death. Read

Architects Live in Senior Spaces to Help Elderly

(USA Today, May 2014) - Young architects move into senior housing and live with the people they were designing housing for so they can get a feel for the needs and requirements of the residents. Read