ROGERS CITY - Presque Isle County residents who are behind on their property taxes may have a reprieve.
Step Forward Michigan now has a loan rescue property tax assistance program, and Northeast Michigan Affordable Housing can help those who qualify apply for them. Micki Hurren, NEMAH housing counselor and foreclosure specialist, said it's aimed at homeowners who have suffered a financial setback.
"The thought of losing your house or your property to foreclosure or even property forfeiture is a lot of stress on a person," she said. "This helps a person get back financially to where they were."
While another Michigan's Hardest Hit Funds program helped homeowners late on their mortgages, the program was expanded effective Jan. 15 to those who are behind on their property taxes as well, Hurren said.
The program is federally funded and administered through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, according to the organization website. Homeowners can get a maximum of $30,000 in assistance.
The program is for people who are behind due to temporary or involuntary hardships, Hurren said. Examples are medical conditions, or falling behind due to a death in the family. Others are divorce and job loss, according to the program website.
Those seeking the funds can get them only for a primary residence, Hurren said. Homeowners can only get help from one Michigan's Hardest Hit program, among other restrictions listed on Step Forward Michigan's website. Other restrictions state the house must not be condemned or abandoned, and rental properties are only eligible if they have four units or less and the owner makes it their primary residence.
Homeowners get assistance through an interest-free, forgivable loan, Hurren said. They must remain in the home for five years, after which anything still owed is forgiven. The amount owed goes down by 20 percent each year, and if the homeowner leaves the house before the five-year period ends, they must repay whatever remains.
To apply through NEMAH, call their Rogers City office at 734-4822, Hurren said. Applications are available online at www.stepforwardmichigan.org or by calling 1-866-946-7432.
The program helps participating counties by saving the cost of going through the forfeiture process, Hurren said. It also saves them from being stuck with the tax-foreclosed homes in a sluggish real estate market.
Presque Isle County has to borrow against any unpaid property taxes, so the program could help the county recoup some of those funds, Treasurer Bridget LaLonde said.
Cheryl Franks, Alcona County Treasurer, said her office is looking into participating with the program in the future. Montmorency County Treasurer Karen Weiland-Tyler said her office will be getting more information as well today from a seminar. Alpena County does not participate in the program at this time, Treasurer Kim Ludlow said.
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