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HAP extends relief to servicemembers preparing to PCS

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 recently instituted the authorization of a temporary expansion of the Homeowners Assistance Program due to the country's mortgage foreclosure and credit crisis.

The HAP program offers servicemembers and federal employee homeowners the chance to escape a financial loss on the sale of their residence due to base closure or duty assignment changes by providing monetary relief to those who are eligible. The program, however, only assists eligible applicants with the owner's primary residence. 

"The Homeowners Assistance Program was recently expanded to include active duty servicemembers who have sold or will sell their home for less than the purchase price as a result of receiving PCS (permanent change of station) orders," said Capt. Sean Garner, a 30th Space Wing assistant staff judge advocate. "Since military personnel have little control over where we live and when we move, we are especially vulnerable to the recent downturn in the real estate market. This program is designed to help mitigate the financial damage of selling a home at a loss."

The HAP program has the potential to significantly help homeowners in need.

"The new expansion can potentially provide assistance for foreclosures if you are in a qualifying category and if you are in danger of defaulting on your mortgage," said 1st Lt. Aimee Haney, a 30th Space Wing assistant staff judge advocate. "Further, the additional funds are available to help reimburse your losses or pay off your mortgage if you didn't make enough from the sale of your home to cover those losses."

There are a few ways servicemembers can benefit from the HAP program. Under the direction of the United States Government, the program may choose to reimburse homeowners for part of their loss when selling their home due to a PCS that requires the homeowner to move more than 50 miles. The program also helps homeowners default on their mortgage, purchase a home by paying off mortgages. The HAP program can assist homeowners who do not have sufficient funds from the sale of their home to pay off their mortgage.

"In general, if you are upside down on your house and forced to sell it because of a permanent change of station move, you can submit a request to the HAP program to help you so that you don't have to foreclose on your home," said Jimmy Camacho, a community readiness consultant at the Airman and Family Readiness Center here. "We are the first place people should consider going when they are having trouble with their mortgage due to the realignment of their duty. We can help people in these situations get off to the right start with the HAP application process."

The consultants at the AFRC can also provide homeowners beneficial information, counseling and referrals for those interested in the HAP program.

"The best way to avoid foreclosure is to be an informed buyer in the beginning," Mr. Camacho said. "If you are having problems with your mortgage, come see us right away because it is better to deal with potential future problems by preparing for them rather than being disqualified from benefits programs, like the HAP program, because you can't make your payments."

For more information about the HAP program or for questions and concerns about financial planning, call the AFRC at (805) 606-0039 to set up an appointment with a consultant. If you have questions about this program or think you may be eligible, you can browse the HAP program website at http://hap.usace.army.mil/ or come in to the base's legal office to speak with one of the legal assistance attorneys. The legal assistance hours are Mondays to Wednesdays from 1-2 p.m., or you can call (805) 606-1453.