Keep Your Home California has helped more than 57,000 homeowners, but thousands more could benefit from free mortgage-assistance program

Keep Your Home California continues to assist homeowners who need a helping hand with their mortgage payments — and is ready to help many more.

Keep Your Home California has helped more than 57,000 homeowners and distributed nearly $1.2 billion in assistance since February 2011. About another 25,000 could benefit from Keep Your Home California.

A large majority (93%) of homeowners approved for the free mortgage-assistance program are still in their homes two years later, with only 131 total households losing their homes to foreclosure during that same two-year period. Yep, more people are likely shopping at a local home-improvement store on a Saturday morning than the number of homeowners who suffered a foreclosure after receiving help from Keep Your Home California.

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The federally funded, state-managed program has allowed homeowners to remain in their homes while providing financial and emotional stability. Keep Your Home California has also been a success for neighborhoods and the state, which suffer from lower revenue with foreclosures.

Now, foreclosures have declined the past several months, thanks to a much-improved economy and housing market. But the economic recovery has not been even across all communities in the state and there are still many California homeowners who need Keep Your Home California.

In fact, about one of every nine California homeowners is dealing with an underwater mortgage – meaning they owe more than the current value of their home. And there are some areas and counties with a much-larger ratio of homeowners with negative-equity mortgages.

The Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) has the fourth-largest percentage of underwater mortgages in the nation, at 13.9%. Five California counties, including Imperial and Kings, have at least 25% of homeowners with mortgages facing an underwater situation.

Plus, the state still has almost 1.2 million jobless residents looking for work, including many who are unemployed. Keep Your Home California offers as much as $3,000 per month for up to 18 months for out-of-work homeowners.

Indeed, the Golden State’s economic future is much brighter, but it still has a glaring need for Keep Your Home California.

The mortgage-assistance program has five distinct programs, including one offering as much as $100,000 in principal reduction. Keep Your Home California can also help homeowners catch-up on past due payments with the Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program or the Reverse Mortgage Assistance Pilot Program.

A homeowner’s mortgage servicer, the company that collects the monthly payment, must participate in Keep Your Home California. More than 240 mortgage servicers are currently enrolled in the program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase.

And homeowners must meet county-by-county income requirements, which range from about $70,000 in rural counties to more than $120,000 in some Bay Area counties. Additionally, homeowners must have suffered a financial hardship — such as a job loss, cut in pay, divorce or extraordinary medical expenses — in order to be eligible for the program. Severe negative equity, a loan-to-value ratio of 120% or more, is considered a financial hardship under the Principal Reduction Program.

If you would like more information or want to apply for Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.KeepYourHomeCalifornia.org (Spanish speakers should visit http://conservatucasacalifornia.org/ ). The counseling center is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Translators are available, so counseling sessions can be conducted in virtually any language.