Pilot program provides $5,000 per homeowner in need

Up until now, manufactured home owners behind in their mortgages or lot rents have had few places to turn for help.

That's because under state law these homes have been considered vehicles instead of houses, and thus ineligible for assistance under available housing relief programs.

And while state law hasn't changed, a new pilot program has made up to $300,000 available for any eligible manufactured home owner whose home sits on rented land or on a lot owned by the homeowner.

Manufactured homes make up approximately 11 percent of the homes in the state, said Delaware State Housing Authority Director Anas Ben Addi. These homeowners face the same troubles with meeting mortgages and making repairs as do standard home owners, but don't have the same resources available to others.

Ben Addi, Gov. Jack Markell, Attorney General Beau Biden and state Rep. Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear), announced the new program at a Monday afternoon DSHA press conference.

"We've recognized their needs, but have struggled with finding a program to assist," Ben Addi said. "Now we have access to a funding source without any strings attached."

The new program, dubbed the Manufactured Housing Assistance Program, was created in 2012 with proceeds from the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement between the federal and state governments and five of the nation's largest mortgage-servicing banks. Forty-nine of the 50 state attorneys general joined in the lawsuit, which went after banks that had violated the law by signing off on foreclosure paperwork without checking to see if they were correct and without the documents being notarized.

It is a joint project between the DSHA and the attorney general's office, and was developed after consulting with both manufactured home owners and landowners.

Delaware's share of the approximately $25 billion settlement allows up to $5,000 in assistance payments for each person who applies for the program.

That cash may be used to pay almost any housing-related overdue debts and to provide continuing help for up to 12 months or until the $5,000 maximum has been reached.

"The best thing is that if you are delinquent, this program can assist you to get back on track," Ben Addi said.

To qualify, applicants must have suffered a drop in income through no fault of their own of at least 15 percent or more because of loss of employment, injury, reduction in hours or illness. The money is paid in the form of a no-interest loan secured by a lien on the home. It must be repaid if the property is refinanced, sold, if the title is transferred or if the borrower moves out of the property.

Loan recipients must apply through a housing counselor at DSHA, who will provide guidance and budgeting information to help prevent future financial problems.

"The key is we don't want to offer just a single tool," Ben Addi said. "We want to bring them to the housing counselors, we want to work with the housing counselors and make sure there is a comprehensive solution."

Markell praised the program and its efforts to help manufactured home owners in the state.

"This particular program is one more in a series of programs that have really been innovative and terrific," Markell said, programs that have contributed to Delaware's home ownership rate being at least 10 percentage points higher than the national average.

"As much progress as we've made in helping people achieve the dream of home ownership, we can't lose focus on homeowners who are struggling for reasons beyond their control," the governor added. "That's really what this program is about."

Ben Addi urged homeowners who are behind in housing-related payments and at risk of being evicted or having their homes repossessed to contact DSHA as quickly as possible. Agency counselors will help determine if MHAP is available to them and help guide them through the application process.

"This is another tool in our toolbox and helps another segment of the population in need," Ben Addi said.

For more information on the Manufactured Housing Assistance Program, call the Delaware State Housing Authority at (888) 363-8808.