By Dale Kasler
dkasler@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 6B

Struggling California homeowners will have to wait several more weeks for the start of a $1.83 billion government aid program that will pay down loan balances and provide monthly cash assistance.

The “Keep Your Home California” program was supposed to begin Monday. But it’s been delayed because of logistical issues, according to officials with the California Housing Finance Agency.

The agency said the program will start on a limited basis in a few weeks and expand from there.

Diane Richardson, an agency official who’s running the program, said major technical hurdles arose because the program has been expanded since it was announced by the Obama administration in February.

“We’re pushing as hard as we can,” Richardson said. “The program has more than doubled – they’re very complicated programs.”

She said she doesn’t know the precise timetable for the launch.

Since the original announcement, the amount of money available has almost tripled. The number of participating states has increased, to 18 plus the District of Columbia. And the number of potentially eligible homeowners increased dramatically last week, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two quasi-governmental agencies that buy mortgages from lenders, instructed their loan servicers to participate.

“We’re talking about a volume (of loans) now that we didn’t have before,” said Steven Spears, the executive director of the California agency.

Funded with federal dollars, the program offers four different types of cash assistance for an estimated 100,000 low- to moderate-income California homeowners. Richardson said eligible borrowers had to have endured some sort of “loss of income issue.”

The two main forms of aid: $875 million for unemployed Californians who need help making their monthly payments, plus $790 million to directly reduce mortgage loan balances.

Smaller amounts will be made available for helping homeowners who have temporarily fallen behind on their payments. In addition, there will be cash for borrowers who are going to lose their homes to foreclosure or short sale and need help finding a new place to live.

The maximum amount of aid per household is $50,000.

News of the delay was a disappointment to Vicky Miller, a struggling homeowner in Fair Oaks, who said she thinks the state could have moved more quickly.

“I’m waiting to apply,” said Miller.

“So many of these government departments are sitting on things that can help the public,” she added. “This amount of money was given to them to … help the public now, not next year.”

Miller said she lost her job a year ago and now, like her husband, works part time. They’re currently making their mortgage payments but missed three months’ worth and can’t catch up.

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