Fla. Officials Expand "Hardest Hit" Fund

In Florida, the American dream of home ownership is all too often turning into a nightmare that ends in foreclosure.

Many homeowners can't avoid it, especially those who have taken out subprime loans, but others can't make their monthly payments because they're unemployed.

For them, the federally-funded 'Hardest Hit' program offers to temporarily pay their mortgages, and Friday the Florida Housing Finance Corporation announced some big changes are on the way.

"If someone was denied eligibility because their mortgage was originated after January 1, 2009, we can reach back out to these folks and, hopefully, bring them back into the program," said David Westcott.

What's more, the benefits under the program are being doubled, to a full year of mortgage payments worth up to $24,000.

Officials say Florida's entire real estate market will benefit if the funding plays a role in preventing foreclosures.

"I don't think they can prop that market up."

Nicole Hubble feels the impact of the foreclosure crisis every day. She lives in hard-hit Cape Coral, and she'll be losing her job in late June, but she says she has no intention of taking advantage of a program she calls 'welfare for homeowners'.

"It's unfair to the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their homes, who have already had to suffer that loss, and then there's relief for some and not for others, and it becomes a matter of who makes that decision."

Technically, the assistance under the program comes in the form of a loan but one that can be forgiven. To date, more than 5,500 Floridians have already taken advantage of 'Hardest Hit'.

Friday's changes will also make it easier for condo owners to get mortgage assistance under the Hardest Hit program. If Washington signs off, they'll take effect this summer.

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