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Mortgage in crisis

Published October 17. 2013 05:00PM

David Anthony is keeping his fingers crossed that his home loan will finally go through after being stalled by the government shutdown.

The Lehighton man was in the midst of selling his home in Mahoning Township and buying a smaller one in Lehighton, planning to use the mortgage payment savings to take his daughter on summer vacations.

He had just submitted paperwork to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development home loan program when the shutdown hit on Oct. 1.

"People just don't realize how it's affecting the average person. I feel like I'm being held hostage," Anthony said in an interview Monday.

The lights went back on in the capitol late Wednesday after Congress finally resolved the budget impasse that had triggered the closure of innumerable offices, including the USDA.

But it may take a while for Anthony's loan to complete the approval process more time he has to wait until he and his daughter can move into their new home.

With the sale and purchase stalled, Anthony, a single father who works full-time, is now living in an apartment above a bar on First Street in Lehighton; his daughter and their pet dog are living with his mother. In addition to paying rent on the apartment, Anthony is also paying storage fees for a truck on which his household furnishings are loaded.

Anthony is angry and frustrated.

"I'm at a standstill, separated from my daughter because the government shut down," he said.

He sold his house in Mahoning Township on Sept. 27. He was hoping to close on one he was buying in Lehighton at the same time.

But the loan is being administered by the USDA's Rural Development home loan program, which closed its doors Oct. 1.

"The shutdown affected me whole heartedly because I was on the last step," Anthony said. "My paperwork went into (the USDA home loan program), to be looked at. It's an eight-day process. To my knowledge, my paperwork went in on Sept. 25, and was scheduled to come out within the eight days. We were within a two-day window of my paper coming back to the bank to set up a closing date, and the next thing you know, the government shut down."

Anthony is not alone in his frustration, said William F, Hanley, senior economic development specialist for Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright, D-17.

"It has been horrendous. Several constituents have been standing in line to close on mortgage loans, within a week of closing. It's impossible to check to see where they are in line" because USDA offices are closed, and employees don't have computer access.

"It's not until they open the offices that we will be able to tell how long it will take to process the loan guarantees," Hanley said.

The people seeking the loans need to have a conditional letter of approval from USDA, which lets banks know USDA will guarantee the loan. Banks typically allow people to close on their mortgage as long as they have that letter.

Anthony said he did all he could.

"I don't feel like it should have gone this far. I've done everything that I felt was right, and still try to hold my head up and go to work every day. And they (Congress) are not, in my opinion, going to work every day and doing what we're paying them to do. Our taxes are still going in," he said.

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