SACRAMENTO – Homeownership is a large part of the American Dream, but after being hit hard by an economic downturn, many in California saw their “home sweet home” experience turn sour. A local woman, however, is playing a key role in helping owners keep their keys.

Tia Boatman Patterson serves as Executive Director of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). Ms. Patterson’s leadership includes creating and financing progressive housing so more Californians have a place to call home. To accomplish that, she works with single family and multifamily lenders and developers in addition to engaging with private financing markets, federal housing agencies and localities.

Prior to her appointment by Gov. Jerry Brown, Ms. Patterson served on the CalHFA Board of Directors and was General Counsel of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA). Her legal management of SHRA also covered the legal department’s services to SHRA-administered non-profit corporations; the City and County Community Development Block Grant funds, HOME funds, Housing Trust Funds; and housing bond programs. Her responsibilities also included legal oversight of SHRA’s approximately 14,000 public housing tenants, including approximately 3,500 public housing units and 11,000 Housing Choice Vouchers.

Ms. Patterson says she’s seen the value of assistance programs firsthand and witnessed their power to “eliminate generational cycles of poverty.” She was raised in the Central Valley by a single mother and lived in public housing. Her mother, she says, took advantage of a down payment assistance program in the 1970s and purchased a home where she raised her children and saw them off to college and good careers.

Ms. Patterson, a graduate of McGeorge School of Law, is particularly proud of the success of the Keep Your Home California program.

Keep Your Home California is a free service for homeowners who have suffered a financial hardship, to help them stay in their homes, maintain an affordable mortgage payment and avoid foreclosure. More than 45,000 California homeowners have received assistance since the program started in February 2011.

“It’s nice to be able to know that what you’re doing in actually touching people’s lives,” Ms. Patterson said.

Keep Your Home California has four major programs. The Unemployment Mortgage Assistance Program (UMA) provides mortgage payment assistance to eligible homeowners who have experienced an involuntary job loss and are receiving unemployment benefits from EDD. Assistance through UMA can be up to $3,000 per month for up to 18 months.

The Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance Program (MRAP) provides assistance to eligible homeowners who, because of a financial hardship, have fallen behind on their payments and need help to reinstate their past due first mortgage loan. Benefit assistance through MRAP can be a one–time payment of up to $54,000 to cover principal, interest, taxes and insurance, as well as any homeowner’s association dues.

The Principal Reduction Program (PRP) provides assistance to eligible homeowners who owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth and/or have an unaffordable payment. Homeowners must have experienced an economic hardship or a severe decline in their home’s value in order to be considered for the PRP. Homeowners who qualify for the PRP could be eligible for up to $100,000 in assistance.

The Transition Assistance Program (TAP) provides one-time funds to help eligible homeowners relocate into a new housing situation after executing a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure program. TAP can provide up to $5,000 in transition assistance per household.

“The way we’ve structured our program, we’ve been successful,” Ms. Patterson shared.

“Ninety two percent of (those we’ve helped) are still in their homes after four years.”

These key programs are funded by a $2 grant from the US Treasury Department’s Hardest Hit Fund. Ms. Patterson says some have questioned the speed at which the assistance was getting to people, but they aren’t daunted and engaged in dialogue with the detractors that explained their position and led to making the program better.

“It’s not about getting the money out fast, it’s about getting the money out successfully,” Ms. Patterson said.

The grant expires on December 31, 2017 unless funds are exhausted before that time. Any remaining funds are to be returned. Ms. Patterson says that won’t happen.

“We intend to spend every dime of this money to help California homeowners,” she said.

To that end, the CalFHA has created outreach to underrepresented communities.

“A lot of people are embarrassed to ask for help,” shared KYHC Program Director Diane Richardson.

“They have nothing to lose by making the phone call,” she continued.

Ms. Patterson agrees.

“What was it our grandmothers used to say, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed?”

For more information on Keep Your Home California, call 888-954-KEEP (5337) or visit www.keepyourhomecalifornia.org.
By Genoa Barrow
OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer