Elder Law provides housing counseling


Providing assistance at Elder Law of Michigan are (left to right) Rebecca Arnold, grants and development manager; Jessica Sanchez, housing counselor and housing services manager; and Kimberly Chipps, foreclosure prevention manager and AmeriCorps member.

By Roberta M. Gubbins
Legal News

During the Great Recession and continuing today, adults age 50 and older are often overlooked as part of the group of families facing foreclosure.

They too face long term unemployment, forced retirements, lost savings and increased costs leaving them vulnerable to the loss of their greatest asset, their home.

Elder Law of Michigan, in an effort to assist that group, began offering Housing Counseling Service in October of 2011.

For those struggling with foreclosure, Elder Law of Michigan’s Help for Struggling Homeowners Project was created.

An approved HUD and certified Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) housing counseling agency, it provides its foreclosure prevention services for free.

The program is designed to help homeowners of all ages struggling with mortgage payments.

Three of the counselors working in the Housing Counseling Service are: Kimberly Chipps, foreclosure prevention project manger; Jessica Sanchez, housing counselor and housing
services manager; and Rebecca Arnold, grants and development manager.

“Over the past year, we have seen an influx of housing calls,” said Chipps. “We received several new grants so the ability and the capacity for us to take on more clients has expanded.”

The needs of the clients vary. “Some clients want to solve their own issue,” she said. “Those clients may call once or twice. Then, there’s the long-term foreclosure clients and you can work with them up to two to three years.”

While the average client may be with the service about three months, “each client is so individualized,” said Chipps, “you have to look at each case.”

For many of the clients, “it’s not really a legal issue,” said Sanchez, “it’s a money issue. ‘I can’t pay my mortgage.’ We help them apply for the MSHDA’s Step Forward program, a loan modification” or other program that suits their needs.

Sanchez urged people to call sooner rather than later. There are “times when there is nothing we can do to stop the foreclosure, so we help them transition to other housing.”

“We want to emphasize,” said Chipps, “that it’s better to call us early. We know this is a difficult matter. The most important part of the message is that ‘you need to get to us early, as early as you can.’”

“You don’t have to be poor to get help with your home,” said Sanchez. “Anyone can call. There a lot of people who aren’t really low income but due to some problem they’re getting behind on their mortgage. We can still help them apply for the programs out there.”

Arnold, who left private practice to work in the non-profit sector, coordinates outreach, is an excellent trainer and public speaker and manages the day-to-day operations of the housing grants.

The following organizations have issued grants to help fund the housing service:

• Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

• National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

• Unrestricted Funding helps fund Hotline.

• Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.

The foreclosure prevention services are provided to homeowners in Calhoun, Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, Jackson, Livingston and Shiawassee Counties.

The Housing Counseling Service provides the following services:

• Help to catch up on mortgage or tax payments.

• Help to get a property tax abatement or forbearance.

• Assistance to transition to more affordable housing.

• Loan modification.

• The pros and cons of reverse mortgages.

• Help to prevent being a victim of a bad land contract.

• If you are in foreclosure, we can work to minimize the consequences.

• Fair Housing issues.

• Section 8 Vouchers and Public Housing.

Chipps is a graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School and an AmeriCorps Volunteer, who helped set up the infrastructure of the housing program.

Arnold is also a graduate of Cooley.

Sanchez is a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She joined Elder Law as a volunteer and has been promoted to lead the efforts of the housing counseling in Mid-Michigan.

Those seeking help may call 1.866.400.9164, Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to schedule an appointment to meet a housing counselor.

For additional information on Elder Law of Michigan, visit www.elderlawofmi.org.