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Charlotte Area News

Obama assistance plan offers hope to save homes

The president's new homeowner assistance plan aims to help millions of Americans avoid foreclosure. Mecklenburg County stands to benefit, since nearly 9,000 foreclosures were filed here last year. The Homeowner Stability Initiative includes help for people who entered into so-called "bad loans" they can't afford, as well as people who've hit hard times and can't refinance because their homes have lost value. That second group is one Bruce Hamlett is seeing a lot more. He's a mortgage counselor for United Family Services in Charlotte. "Whereas before we were dealing with folks right on the border where it only takes one little thing to cause a financial crisis, we're seeing more and more clients now who are well above that - folks who've made good incomes, but they've lost their job," says Hamlett. President Obama's foreclosure initiative takes $75 billion from the bank bailout money and offers part of it as incentives to lenders who agree to restructure loans. Hamlett says some banks have remained unwilling to help struggling homeowners in Charlotte. He hopes the proposed incentive will break that barrier. Several major banks, including Wells Fargo and Charlotte-based Bank of America, have temporarily suspended foreclosures to give the federal assistance program time to work.