Earlier this year, the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development extended the deadline for struggling homeowners to apply for HUD’s Making Home Affordable Program to December 31, 2013.
To further increase awareness of that program, the government and the Ad Council on Wednesday kicked off the third and final phase of a public service advertising campaign, which will target the nearly one in 14 homeowners in the U.S. who have fallen behind on mortgage payments, in order to alert them to free resources available to help them avoid foreclosure.
In its November 2012 Housing Scorecard, the Obama Administration stated that since Making Home Affordable was launched in 2009 through the first six months of 2012, more than 1.3 million households have taken advantage of the program. Making Home Affordable focuses on providing homeowners with information that would help them lower their monthly mortgage payments or, if homeownership is no longer viable, showing them the cleanest path out without resorting to foreclosure. The program also points owners who have lost their jobs or whose homes are underwater to refinancing options.
The Administration’s scorecard also notes that:
•The Federal Housing Administration has offered more than 1.5 million loss-mitigation and early-delinquency interventions, with lenders participating in the HOPE Now program offering homeowners more than 3.2 million mortgage modifications.
•18.2 million homeowners have refinanced their mortgages since April 1, 2009.
•More than 1.1 million homeowners have received a permanent modification through the Administration’s Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP.
The primary criticism of Obama’s housing policies has been that they have not helped anywhere near as many distressed homeowners as the administration itself had projected at the outset of these programs, or they’re helping the wrong people. FHA, which guarantees 30% of all new mortgages, has come under withering criticism lately after reporting that its capital position is now $13.5 billion in the red, and that more than one in six of its loans are at least 30 days delinquent.
There are myriad reasons why more distressed homeowners haven’t sought help from government agencies, explains George Gonzales of HUD’s public affairs office. “Some people just think the problem will go away, and others are embarrassed about friends or family knowing about their situation,” he says. “The PSA ads are designed to address some of those issues.”
The Chicago-based ad firm Schafer Condon Carter created Make Home Affordable’s multimedia campaign (print, radio, outdoor, and web), which seeks to assuage owners’ anxieties. The voiceover on the new 1-minute web ad, for example, states, “When people struggle with their mortgage payments, they become frozen, petrified. Not knowing what to do, they do nothing.” That ad goes on to assure distressed homeowners that “people who take action are far more likely to get a positive outcome.” The program’s phone number, 888-995-HOPE, then appears on screen. People can call that number to reach HUD-approved housing experts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“We hope to be able to reach these Americans with a message of hope, and inspire them to get the help they need,” said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council, in a prepared statement issued jointly with HUD and Treasury.
The PSAs, which are available in English and Spanish, will start airing next month and are scheduled to run for a year, says Lisa Cullen, an Ad Council spokesperson. Since this campaign was launched in 2010, media outlets have donated nearly $69 million in air time and space.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.