DoD program helps homeowners after base closures

DoD program helps homeowners after base closures

ksaldarini@govexec.com

Who wants to buy a home in a real estate market that's spiraling downward after a local military base closure? Uncle Sam does, thanks to a law that helps Defense Department homeowners deal with the realities of base closures.

The Homeowners Assistance Program (HAP), developed under the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966, lets the government buy homes from military and civilian DoD employees who work at bases that are closing. There were four base closure rounds between 1988 and 1995.

"Many people have moved away that could be eligible for benefits, but we can't find them," said a HAP spokesman.

Base closings not only affect the people who live and work on the base, but usually have a dramatic affect on the surrounding community, especially the real estate market. For Defense employees who have to sell their homes, the base closing can devalue local properties and force homeowners to sell their homes at a loss. In some cases, homeowners have trouble finding buyers at all.

In such cases, the government will step in and buy homes at 75 percent of their value or pay off the mortgage, whichever is greater.

For homeowners who find a buyer, but are forced to take a loss, Uncle Sam will reimburse part of the loss. And for those who default on the mortgage of a home in a base closure zone, the government will reimburse part of the debt and help restore the homeowner's credit.

"The Homeowners Assistance Program, along with other initiatives, will carry out changing missions with a minimum of hardship to our federal employees and military service members and their families," said David M. Garcia, a realty specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers.

According to Garcia, the program has even helped DoD employees who defaulted on their mortgages get their veterans benefits restored.

HAP is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers' Relocation Services Branch. The program is currently being used at 18 Defense bases and several more are being studied for program approval. In order for a base to get HAP approval, an intensive study of the real estate market in the surrounding area must be performed. If the market has declined based on a base closure announcement, it is then considered for the program.

More details on the HAP program are available online at http://www.spk.usace.army.mil/cespk-re/hap/hapmain.html.

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