Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson today announced that HUD has established a single toll-free number, 1-888-297-8675, to assist the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The number operates from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST, seven days a week. Previously, HUD had toll free numbers for each of the different services provided by the agency, such as FHA insured-mortgages, Section 8, multi-family housing, lender information and public housing residents.
"This nationwide telephone number will provide callers expanded services and hours and the opportunity to speak with an actual person," said Jackson. "With all that displaced families are going through starting to rebuild their lives, the last thing they need to encounter is an answering machine without answers. We have increased our staffing at the National Servicing Call Center in Oklahoma, and we currently have the capacity to handle 15,000 calls daily."
Immediately after the hurricane, Jackson instructed all FHA-approved lenders to provide foreclosure relief to FHA-insured families who are affected by Hurricane Katrina. The relief includes a special 90-day moratorium on all foreclosures of FHA-insured properties in the Presidentially declared disaster areas. Jackson is also encouraging lenders to undertake actions such as mortgage modification, refinancing, and waiver of late charges.
Following President Bush's federal disaster declaration, HUD began deploying staff to Disaster Field Offices set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. HUD's initial concern is to help meet the immediate housing needs of those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.
HUD is also reaching out to its private sector partners such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties for assistance. HUD has contacted: top mortgage lenders about their inventory of repossessed homes; the homebuilding industry for help with building materials and supplying construction workers; its housing counseling network to assist displaced homeowners; and the manufactured housing industry about available housing stock.
· Providing Temporary Housing and Shelter - HUD is identifying vacant multi-family housing and HUD-owned homes that could be used as temporary housing for those forced from their homes. For more information about temporary housing go to www.fema.gov or call 1-888-297-8675;
· Granting Immediate Foreclosure Relief - HUD has granted a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and forbearance on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured homes;
· Reprogramming and Accelerating Federal Block Grants - Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME grantees may reprogram previously awarded grants to redirect their focus to disaster recovery activities but grantees must request the reprogram from HUD;
· Providing Relief for Indian Housing - HUD will provide Indian Community Development Block Grant funding (up to $300,000 per grantee) for disaster relief for Indian Housing and Tribal areas;
· Providing Public Housing Reserve for Disasters and Emergencies - HUD has funding available for public housing authorities to help rehabilitate damaged properties;
· Making Available Programs for Damaged or Destroyed Properties - HUD's Section 203(k) loan program enables homebuyers and homeowners who have lost their homes to finance both the purchase and/or refinancing of a house and the cost of its rehabilitation through a single mortgage. It also allows homeowners who have damaged houses to finance the rehabilitation of their existing single-family home. This program encourages lenders to make mortgages available to borrowers who would not otherwise qualify for conventional loans on affordable terms and to residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods;
· Mortgage Insurance for Disaster Victims - HUD has a special mortgage insurance program under Section 203(h) of the National Housing Act to assist disaster victims. Under this program, individuals or families whose residences were destroyed or damaged to such an extent that reconstruction or replacement is necessary are eligible for 100 percent financing; and
· Offering Assistance to Ginnie Mae Issuers in Disaster Areas - Ginnie Mae will provide assistance to Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) issuers with significant concentrations of loans within the affected areas. The assistance includes help in making payments to MBS investors where homeowners are unable to make payment, and eliminating delinquent loans from delinquency statistics used in risk monitoring.
Specific guidance for FHA-approved lenders can be also be found on HUD's websites, www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.