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Program softens housing blow for military, civilians

Monday - 9/12/2011, 1:01pm  ET

Darci Marchese,

WASHINGTON - You've heard that because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), many people have had to pick up and move -- it's part of reality for many military and government workers in the D.C. area.

But moving isn't as easy when you're facing a downturn in the housing market. That's why the Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP) has been expanded.

"This program will help homeowners recoup some of the loss that they'd have on their house," says Scott Whiteford, director of Real Estate for the Army Corp of Engineers.

Congress originally authorized HAP in the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966, and the program was expanded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It provides financial assistance to service members and certain Department of Defense civilian homeowners who suffer financial loss on the sale of their primary houses.

Here's an example: A military couple purchased a home in Charles County, Md. for $525,000 in October of 2005. The couple received military orders out of state recently and would have suffered a great loss, due to the major decline of housing prices in the area. They currently have a sale pending for $355,000. It's a loss of $170,000.

But thanks to HAP, they will receive a check for 90 percent of what they purchased their home for in order to make up for the loss.

Whiteford explains that homeowners who qualify will receive 90 percent of what they bought their home for, regardless of its selling price.

More than $1 billion has been handed out to homeowners so far -- surpassing the $855 million allocated to the program.

Through the end of August 2011, 6,717 homeowners received assistance through HAP. On average, each homeowner received $160,000.

In the D.C. area, 1,522 homeowners from D.C., Virginia and Maryland have received assistance. That includes 30 people who were moved because of BRAC, 21 who were wounded or injured at war and nearly 1, 500 military families who were assigned to a new duty station, forcing them to move.

Who exactly may qualify for the program?

  • Wounded, ill or injured service members and DoD employees. (injured Sept. 11, 2001 to no end date)
  • Surviving spouses of fallen deployed service members and civilian employees (from Sept. 11, 2001 to no end date)
  • BRAC 05 impacted personnel (assigned to BRAC 05 organization and owned home on May 13, 2005)
  • Military personnel making a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move (or moving to another duty station) (purchased home prior to July 1, 2006 and received PCS orders dated between Feb. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2010)

Whiteford says while the program doesn't make "homeowners whole again," it certainly takes the sting out of much of the loss.

"We've had many calls and emails from applicants who are very thankful for this program," he says.

Service members and civilian employees who may be eligible can apply for Expanded HAP by downloading an application from the HAP website.

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