In 2016, Rep. John Lewis asked the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program to audit the state-run Hardest Hit Fund, TARP’s primary federal foreclosure mitigation program in Atlanta. Today, SIGTARP released its final audit which revealed statewide mismanagement by Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, which is the state’s housing finance agency and Treasury’s HHF contractor.
Known locally in Georgia as the HomeSafe program, HHF promised $7.6 billion to States with high unemployment and home value losses. In 2010, Georgia was included in the third round of funding. To date the State received more than $300 million, of which only $130 million remain available to assist Georgian homeowners.
According to SIGTARP, there are currently 22,000 Georgians who are behind in their mortgage payments. Although DCA’s HomeSafe Georgia website states that the Mortgage Payment Assistance and Mortgage Reinstatement Assistance programs are closed to new applicants, HomeSafe Georgia’s Mortgage Principal Reduction program is still accepting new applicants.
For five years, Rep. Lewis repeatedly urged for HomeSafe funding to serve Georgian homeowners most affected by the economic crisis. He led multiple Congressional initiatives requesting responsible amendments of the contracts between the Department of the Treasury and local housing finance agencies with the purpose of increasing program participation.
Upon reviewing the SIGTARP audit results, Rep. John Lewis made the following statement:
“Struggling homeowners expected, demanded, and deserved for government officials not only to hold those who created these crises accountable but also to do all they could to help homeowners recover. In response to the Great Recession, Congress provided desperately needed resources to help families stay in their homes. The responsibility then fell to State agencies to ensure that homeowners received the assistance Congress authorized. SIGTARP’s report shows that the HomeSafe Georgia program was shamefully managed. Unfortunately, despite repeated warnings, too many Georgian communities never received the assistance they expected and deserved.”
“Time and time again, the agency failed to reach Georgia homeowners, who only sought the help promised to them. Sadly, we know that African-American communities shouldered the worst of the foreclosure crisis and face the slowest recovery. Too many homeowners continue to struggle through no fault of their own,” he continued.
“They were robbed of their nest egg — their pathway to the middle class — and in many cases, working parents were stripped of their children’s inheritance. This is their reality, and for many it is devastating. Today, I thank Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and everyone on her team for responding to repeated calls for accountability and justice. Every second makes the difference to those who are struggling to keep a roof over their head. Now that we have the facts before us, I hope that the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and State leaders will find the will and the way to do what is right, what is just, and what is long overdue to serve and protect Georgian homeowners.”