Need help paying your mortgage?
Non-profit group offers free housing counseling
Behind on house payments with foreclosure looming, innumerable prayers were answered with an unexpected, midday phone call.
Alicia and Arturo Perez moved into their Tolleson home in 2013, eager to begin their life in the house they planned to grow old in. Three years later, the couple missed several mortgage payments after heavy rains put Arturo, a local dump truck driver, out of work.
“When it rained, it stormed,” Alicia Perez said. “He wouldn’t be able to go to work for weeks and it became a big financial struggle for us.”
After falling behind, they started to look for ways to catch up on payments. Perez said their prayers were answered with a phone call her husband received one day at work from Administration of Resources and Choices, or ARC, a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-certified housing counseling agency.
The non-profit organization, serving southern Arizona and metro Phoenix, was able to provide free advice and match Perez with funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury to help the couple get back on track.
“The help we received was a true godsend,” Perez said.
Through federal funding, private grants, partnerships and donations, ARC provides free housing counseling to Arizona residents regardless of whether they are facing foreclosure or want the tools to enter the housing market as a prequalified home buyer.
Meeting the needs of the community
ARC was established in 1996 in Tucson as an elder-services agency.
Evolving to meet the needs of the community it served,it began offering counseling in home ownership, foreclosure prevention and reverse mortgages.
In 2010, ARC extended services to
the Valley, focusing on housing counseling in the midst of the fallout following the real-estate crash.
“After the market crashed in 2008, there was so much business in housing counseling and foreclosure in Phoenix that those services alone were enough,” Debbie Chandler, executive director of ARC, said.
Also in 2010, the U.S. Treasury Department established the Hardest Hit Fund in reaction to the housing crisis. Funds were divided among 18 states and Washington D.C. to mitigate the number of borrowers losing their homes.
The Arizona Department of Housing used its funds to create a program called Save Our Home AZ to assist eligible homeowners through principal reduction assistance, mortgage assistance, reinstatement of delinquent payments and other means.
New economy poses new problems
Though the housing crisis has largely subsided, Chandler said the need for housing counseling and foreclosure assistance is still there.
“The demand is certainly less than it was, but the market is changing,” Chandler said. “People are beginning to buy houses and the economy has recovered to some degree.”
She said many homeowners who are getting back into the market are buying homes barely within their means and, following the recession, have little reserves for when financial circumstances shift.
ARC housing counselor Ines HuertaGalarza said they are starting to see more homeowners late on payments who have only been in their homes for a few years.
“Today, the minute something happens — someone loses their job or the car breaks down — there are no reserves to make sure they will be able to continue making payments on their homes,” Huerta-Galarza said.
Perez said she knows this position all too well.
A year after the couple started receiving mortgage assistance through ARC and Save Our Home AZ for the first time, Perez faced another life-altering hardship.
In November 2017, Arturo Perez was killed in an accident at work after being caught between two moving vehicles. Without an income and without her husband by her side, Perez was seven months late on payments and facing foreclosure.
“I sat at my kitchen table and cried and prayed,” Perez said. “I knew I couldn’t lose my home — it was the only thing I had.”
Perez again turned to ARC for assistance. She was approved to receive mortgage assistance through Save Our Home AZ.
“I had to put in some leg work, but I don’t know where I would be without this help,” Perez said. “Having the help that ARC is giving me, I can breathe knowing I can pay my light bill and have food to put on the table, so I can move forward.”
How to get help from ARC
Huerta-Galarza said it’s as easy as a phone call to see if you qualify.