Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Relief coming soon for Airmen affected by housing slump

By 1st Lt. Jonathan Simmons

21st Space Wing Public Affairs

Servicemembers and federal employee homeowners relocating for their job are expected to soon have access to the Homeowners Assistance Program.

Legislation passed in February allows the Secretary of Defense to temporarily expand assistance to homeowners who face a military move during the current housing market slump.

The other groups expected to benefit from the program expansion are surviving spouses of members killed in the line of duty after Sept. 11, 2001, servicemembers or civilians wounded in battle, and civilians and military personnel making a permenent change of station and who meet certain eligibility requirements. The program was originally designed to aid individuals affected by base closures and forced relocations as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure actions.

“Permanent changes of stations can be stressful events in military members’ lives,” said Christina Fornander, Peterson Airman and Family Readiness Center chief. “The new OSD policy should offer some relief to Airmen, decreasing the financial worry associated with moves during the declining housing market.”

The Army Corps of Engineers, which administers the program, is encouraging homeowners who think they may be eligible for assistance to submit applications.

Application information and eligibility guidelines are available at http://hap.usace.army.mil/.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted Feb. 17, the law temporarily expands the Homeowners Assistance Program to authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide monetary assistance to those moving on permanent change of station orders or because of injury or death of a servicemember who suffer financial loss on the sale of their primary residences.

Due to the current depression of the real estate market and the devaluation of many homes, these forced relocations have the potential to cause increased financial loss for the member, could potentially damage individual credit scores and could result in family separations when servicemembers are forced to leave their families behind to avoid incurring debt beyond what their houses are worth.

The Congress budgeted $555 million for the expanded program and defense officials are determining ways to maximize the funds.

The Army Corps of Engineers will begin processing applications once they have received official guidance and funding. Benefit payments normally take between 90 and 120 days to complete, depending on the number of applicants and staffing.

For more information regarding the HAP program or application process, visit their Web site or call the Peterson A&FRC at 556-6141.

(Information provided by 2nd Lt. Gina Vaccaro McKeen, Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs)

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