Florida is deemed the second largest recipient of aid through the Hardest Hit Fund, with $1 billion being provided; the number one recipient was California, with approximately $2 billion. However, according to the Sun Sentinel, a small portion of homeowners in need are benefiting from the program.
Officials have reportedly reviewed 2,700 applications, but only 50 have received the financial assistance they were seeking. Many applicants have been disqualified, leaving them questioning the effectiveness of the program.
One denied homeowner, Barbara Mullenix, told the newspaper that she was turned down by the Hardest Hit Fund because she was too far behind on her mortgage payments.
The spokeswoman for Florida Housing Finance Corp., Cecka Green told the Sun Sentinel that “this program is meant to be a bridge – not a Band-Aid.”
“It was never going to help everybody,” she added. Green believes the agency has effectively screened applicants, sorting out those who are capable of getting back on their feet with the assistance of the program.
Florida’s foreclosure filings dropped two percent from April to May, for a current total of 214,927 properties in May, leaving the market with a burdensome inventory.
Broward County and Palm Beach County continue to hold onto faith in the Hardest Hit Fund, with a current submission rate of 2,551 and 1,510 applications, respectively.
The Orlando Sentinel echoes this concern, adding that the rejection rate is currently standing at approximately 80 percent.
Green also spoke to the Orlando Sentinel, saying “I don’t think we would have wanted to make the qualifications more broad and have more people qualify.” “We want people who have the best chance of sustaining and keeping their homes. … We could literally be in the position where we’re throwing good money after bad.”
According to the article, unemployed homeowners and underemployed homeowners have been rejected, as well as about 150 applicants whose homes were appraised as less than half of their mortgage; another 91 instances involved applicants with incomes exceeding the locally defined median income, and 54 homeowners were determined to have over $400,000 in unpaid principal.
Michigan, whose program was established a month before Florida’s, reportedly has a rate of 857 approved out of 5,400 applications.
State Representative, Darren Soto, has reportedly taken to calling the program a “billion-dollar blunder.”