Offer Alternative Paths
People find themselves at risk of foreclosure for a variety of reasons. While the initial wave of the foreclosure crisis had a significant number of homeowners who had started with mortgages that were fundamentally unaffordable, as the crisis expanded new waves developed that caught up people who did have affordable mortgages. These newly caught up homeowners were being pulled toward foreclosure due to surprising life changes: illness, unemployment, family changes, and similar unexpected, but significant events.
One significant tool that had existed in Pennsylvania for decades was the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). It is a model in foreclosure prevention for homeowners with unemployment, medical, and family change issues.
But neither HEMAP nor Philadelphia’s other foreclosure prevention approaches are designed to be able to fully respond to the needs of people with ancillary issues which are contributing to the foreclosure.
Health & Foreclosure
As noted in the No Place Like Home report, one notable example of a population of at-risk homeowners needing a different type of assistance is the large number of homeowners who face foreclosure due to high medical bills. An independent Robert Wood Johnson study in 2009 found that medical causes contribute to more than 1 in 4 of Philadelphia foreclosures and that medical issues were the primary cause of foreclosure for almost 1 in 10 of those households. Yet hotline workers and counselors rarely inquired into whether a client had a health condition, and if the homeowner volunteered the information, they did not have the skills or knowledge to help the client to appeal a health insurer’s decision, to obtain public-health benefits for family members, or to refer them to an agency or a lawyer that could provide this assistance.
RHLS is working to bring together advocates in the legal, housing counseling, and health fields to address this gap in service.
Learn more about foreclosures & health:
- Foreclosures Take Health Toll, Marni Jameson, The Buffalo News (November 2011)
- Toward a Research Agenda at the Intersections of Housing and Health, Kimberly Libman, Desiree Fields, and Susan Saegert, Housing Theory and Society (November 2011) (cost to download full article)
- Foreclosures Are Killing Us, Craig Pollack and Julia Lynch, New York Times (October 2011)
- Foreclosure Process Takes Toll on Physical, Mental Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (October 2011)
- Study: Foreclosure crisis threatening Americans’ health, Jennifer Goodwin, USA Today (October 2011 )
- A health crisis follows mortgage foreclosure crisis, Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times (October 2011)
- Tying Health Problems to Rise in Home Foreclosures, S. Mitra Kalita, Wall Street Journal (August 2011)
- Is the Foreclosure Crisis Making Us Sick?, Janet Currie and Erdal Tekin, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 17310 (August 2011)
- Health Concerns at Mortgage Counseling Sessions: Results from a Nationwide Survey, Craig Evan Pollack, Pamela Pelizzari, Dawn Alley, Julia Lynch, Foreclosure-Response.org (April 2011)
- Issue Brief: Foreclosure and Health Status, Leonard Davis Institute on Health Economics (January/February 2010)
- Health Status of People Undergoing Foreclosure in the Philadelphia Region, Craig Evans Pollack and Julia Lynch, American Journal of Public Health (October 2009)
- Will the Public’s Health Fall Victim to the Home Foreclosure Epidemic? , Gary Bennett, Melissa Scharoun-Lee, Reginald Tucker-Seeley, PLoS Medicine (June 2009)
- Get Sick, Get Out: The Medical Causes of Home Mortgage Foreclosure, Christopher Tarver Robertson, Richard Egelhof, and Michael Hoke, Health Matrix (2008)