RI-Refi program aims to help underwater homeowners

PROVIDENCE – Good news for homeowners who’ve found themselves underwater in the Ocean State: Today marks the launch of R.I. Housing’s “RI-Refi” program, which aims to help so-called “underwater” homeowners – those who owe more than the current market value of their home – by offering qualified applicants forgivable loans of up to $75,000 according to a press release on Tuesday.

The program aims to help homeowners with negative equity reduce the balance owed on their first or second mortgage and refinance into a 30-year R.I. Housing fixed-rate loan based on the home’s current market value. To be eligible for the program, applicants’ total annual household income must not exceed $87,360 for a one-to-two person household or $101,920 for a three or more person household.

About 10 percent of mortgaged homes – over 24 thousand properties – in Rhode Island were in negative equity in March of this year according to a report by CoreLogic, giving RI the fourth-highest percent of underwater homes in the country. The negative equity rate was 6.2 percent nationally at that time, or a little more than 3 million homes.

“Rhode Island was hit particularly hard by the foreclosure crisis, and although our housing market is improving, many homeowners are still underwater,” said Barbara Fields, executive director of R.I. Housing. “R.I. Housing is thrilled to help more Rhode Island families remain in their homes.”

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R.I. Housing estimates that about 100 households will benefit from the RI-Refi program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund. More information and eligibility guidelines can be found at RI-Refi.org.

Liz Lee is a PBN contributing writer.