Seminole Neighborhood Stabilization Program could be costlier



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A Seminole County family called Eyewitness News for help when it learned its mortgage payment on a county-owned home could be hundreds of dollars more than it planned.

A couple that just went under contract on a house through Seminole County's Neighborhood Stabilization Program was told by their lender that their estimated mortgage payment may go from $600 a month to $900 after the county's guidelines changed this summer.

Cheri Wight's daughter received a conditional award letter from Seminole County in March, showing she and her husband could receive up to $87,000, or up to 50 percent, in payment assistance.

Since then, the county's guidelines changed.

"You think you're at the finish line, and you think you can close within 30 to 45 days when you've got that approval," Wight said.

Program administrators changed the debt-to-income requirement for principal reduction in July in order to spread the program's money to help more homebuyers.

Now, 18 applicants could have higher payments than they expected.

The county didn't notify those buyers, only their lenders.

"Why not notify the homebuyers directly?" Channel 9's Karla Ray asked.

"We are notifying them as we are speaking with them, but the lender is our main point of contact, and that's why we chose to contact them directly," Carmen Hall, with the program, said.

Wight worries about others who may be counting on more help.

"What you thought you had in writing doesn't really hold any value, and my concern is for other families out there who are waiting just as long as my daughter has been waiting," Wight said.

The county said it now plans to notify those 17 other applicants directly to explain the changes, which they hope will get more people into affordable homes.