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Pontiac — Two area clinics planned for this week aim to help Oakland County homeowners who have financial hardships to resolve property tax and mortgage problems, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said.

The Step Forward Michigan program — part of a federally funded program — can pay up to $30,000 in delinquent property taxes or mortgage payments for qualified homeowners facing possible foreclosure.

The interest-free loans are forgiven at a rate of 20 percent a year so if a recipient stays in a home for five years after a Step Forward payment is made, the loan is fully forgiven.

About 5,000 properties are set to be foreclosed March 31, according to the treasurer’s office. Of those, less than 1,000 are expected to go to auction in August 2016. The majority of property owners sign payment plans with the county treasurer before losing their property.

Mortgage foreclosures have wide-ranging impact, according to Meisner.

“Preventing foreclosure protects neighboring homes from losses in property values of over 8 percent,” Meisner said.

Step Forward payments have been distributed to 763 Oakland County families.

Free clinics are being held 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Vocational Service, 29699 Southfield Road in Southfield and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at new Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 174 Branch in Pontiac.

Applications for the foreclosure prevention program must be started by Dec. 31 and submitted by Jan. 31. They will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

To qualify, applicants must:

Be facing a hardship that caused the delinquency.

Occupy their home.

Have delinquent taxes due.

Have cash reserves of less than 11/2 times their home’s annual property tax bill.

Have an income, which can include Social Security or assistance payments.

Homeowners can receive free help applying for the program by contacting the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office Financial Empowerment Center at (248) 858-0611.

For information, go to stepforwardmichigan.org or call (866) 946-7432.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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