Action 4 Investigates: Keeping The American Dream

The recession is making the American dream of owning a home harder to reach.

More Rio Grande Valley families are drowning in debt, but two different community programs offer a lifeline.

Manuel and Lutevina Garza almost lost the house they call home.

The mortgage interest on their $80,000 home went from 5.5% to 11%.

They had entered into an adjustable rate mortgage, or ARM, and didn't even know it.

"It was just a bait and switch from what I understand," said Marla Lutz, senior counselor at Consumer Credit Counseling Services of South Texas.

"For the month of June, our payment is going to be $765, which is a very high payment for us," said Manuel Garza.

The spike was wreaking havoc on their budget.

As a result, the Garzas are behind on their property taxes and can't keep up with utilities.

Lutz decided the Garza's only option was to contact the mortgage company to set up a loan modification.

Homeowners ask to modify the terms of their loan; they don't have to qualify and there are no closing costs involved.

The Garzas lowered their interest rate to almost 5%.

"There were nights where I felt frustrated," explained Manuel. "We came here not knowing what it could do for us. I feel more relieved just knowing that they are helping us."

Loan modification can take anywhere from a few days to 60 days in some cases.

There are several requirements.

The mortgage company will request a hardship letter, which is a written description of why you can no longer make your mortgage payments.

Applicants will also need to provide copies of paycheck stubs, any W-2 forms and some mortgage companies may even want an outline of your budget to see where their money is going.

Residents in Hidalgo County can also get a boost from a new program under the Urban County Grant.

That program helped Anna Delgado and Leonardo Garcia when they got behind on payments and suddenly owed almost $1600.

"We took part of the money to the property office and they didn't want to accept it" explained Delgado. "They said we needed ALL the money."

The Urban County Grant is one-time help to allow residents to avoid foreclosure or eviction.

Counselors look at your income, check to see that your mortgage is actually viable and make sure that your reason for falling behind was beyond your control.

If you qualify, you can receive financial help up to a certain amount.

Delgado and Garcia received $1500 in financial aid and stopped the foreclosure within hours of the deadline.

"We already sent a payment in advance for this month, and I think we will be fine," said Delgado.

"To all the people that need help come look for this company," exclaimed Garcia. "There is no reason to be scared."

Lutz recommends anyone with an interest rate over 7% to look into loan modification.

Click here to find the nearest location of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of South Texas.