Foreclosure Prevention – Alternative Paths

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: