Independent Bank Corporation (NASDAQ: IBCP), a leading Michigan-based community bank, announced it has entered into a servicing agreement to participate in Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) Help for the Hardest Hit program. With $154.5 million in federal funds, MSHDA anticipates the new program should help up to 17,000 unemployed or underwater borrowers keep their homes.

The goal of the program is to assist eligible borrowers who are receiving Michigan unemployment benefits or experiencing financial difficulty with housing payments. Michigan's Hardest Hit program will pay $5,000 to $10,000 toward the mortgages of approximately 17,000 homeowners who are expected to qualify and MSHDA launched the program for funding July 12, 2010.

MSHDA’s assistance program provides:

  • Mortgage payment assistance for homeowners currently receiving unemployment compensation
  • Rescue funds for homeowners who have fallen behind in their mortgage payments due to a one-time involuntary crisis and who have overcome this obstacle
  • Matching funds for principal reductions for homeowners with severe negative equity (mortgage debt exceeds 115% of current market value) who can no longer afford their mortgage payments as a result of reduced income

Assistance in the form of a junior lien may be provided by MSHDA to eligible borrowers on a first-come, first-served basis until program funding is depleted. The junior lien is a zero percent mortgage with no monthly payments forgivable over five years, subject to meeting MSHDA forgiveness conditions. Program eligibility is established by MSHDA.

“The Hardest Hit program is just one of the options Independent Bank offers to assist borrowers experiencing financial hardship. As of June 30, 2010, we have helped over 1,200 households in our communities as part of the Obama Administration’s Making Home Affordable Refinance program,” said Russ Daniel, senior vice president of mortgage lending for the bank. Beginning in 2009, Independent Bank was one of the first banks in Michigan to offer the refinance program and work with consumers who have loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

“As a community bank, serving our customers is our number one priority. If you are experiencing financial challenges, we want you to know that we are here for you,” said Independent Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Brad Kessel, who oversees homeowner assistance programs for the bank.

Borrowers are encouraged to contact their Independent Bank loan counselor at 800.292.5020 to find out if they may be eligible. Borrowers may also visit IndependentBank.com for additional information about homeowner assistance programs.