Oakland housing counselors help homeowners who are behind

Oakland County's certified housing counselors urge homeowners who are a month or more behind in their mortgage payments to contact the Community & Home Improvement Division to help get them back on their feet.

The Oakland County Community & Home Improvement Division offers a host of no cost services and programs designed to keep families in their homes. The division served more than 700 households in 2012, including nearly 450 foreclosure clients. Of that number, 86 percent were able to stay in their homes.

"Anybody would like to have a batting average like that," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. "There is one division within my administration, Community & Home Improvement, where 86 percent of the people who called and were in danger of losing their homes found a way to stay in their homes with our assistance. Don't be a statistic. Let us help you."

Lon Shook, a certified housing counselor, said the holidays often compound financial issues for their clients and others who are challenged by unpaid taxes. Counselors work with clients to see if they are eligible for loan modifications or help from the state's Step Forward Michigan, a program of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The program can help reinstate a mortgage and get payments back on schedule.

Shook said the four housing counselors generally see clients within a week and return phone calls within 24 hours. He urged homeowners who are in trouble or who have questions to call 248-858-1891 to set up a confidential and no cost appointment.

"If someone is behind in their mortgage and they think it's hopeless, we want them to understand the process and know what's going to happen," Shook said. "If you don't know the rules, you can get eaten alive. It's never a waste of time for them to learn about this, even if the home is in foreclosure.

"The toughest part is getting people to call. We talk to people all day long and we give them hope. We're not on TV asking you to send us $1,500 to help you. We're here to help people."

Published: Mon, Oct 28, 2013