Feds come to Valley to help struggling homeowners

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The federal government has been trying for years to get struggling homeowners the help they need, but the truth is a lot of folks haven't taken advantage of programs being offered. 

A new effort is now underway, to get more homeowners to sign up.

"There are still a lot of people that are not able to make their monthly mortgage payments," said housing counselor Ines Huerta-Galarza, with the administration of resources and choices.

Since 2009, the feds have rolled out a number of programs like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to try and help homeowners.

However, only a limited number of Arizonans have participated.

The latest statistics show that 156,672 Arizona homeowners have taken advantage of HARP in the past six years.

More than $3.3 million have participated nationwide.

In an effort to boost participation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is holding town hall style meetings across the country, to spread the word that financial help is still available.

Housing leaders gathered at the Arizona state capitol on Friday.

"We want homeowners to know that there is still assistance out there for them," said Danielle Johnson-Kutch, with the U.S. Dept. of Treasury. "Whether they are struggling to make payments, or if they just want to take advantage of today's lower interest rates, or maybe a shorter term."

Yvette Gilmore, with the lender Freddie Mac, was asked why more homeowners aren't taking advantage of a program that can save them more than $200 a month.

She said it's a combination of not knowing the programs exist, and being bombarded with refinance offers, that may or may not be legit.

"When you buy your first home, it's a lot to go through," Gilmore said. "Now, we are asking them to go ahead and refinance. They are thinking they don't want to be bothered - they just want to be happy - and we want them to take the money."

Arizonans are being encouraged to re-apply for the program, even if  they've been turned down in the past.

Housing officials said there have been a number of changes that will allow more applicants to qualify.

For more information visit www.harp.gov or www.azhousing.gov