Homeowners question rising mortgage payments

HOUSTON The residents we talked to say mortgage increases are one thing, but they are questioning the amount.

It took Denise Caldwell and her son almost two years to get into a Habitat for Humanity home. But Caldwell says her mortgage payment has shot up an additional $161 a month. While tough to handle, she can manage it, but she questions the total amount of the increase.

"Some of the numbers are not adding up," Caldwell said. "That's what we are asking Habitat to put in writing, where they feel like they are justified in the increases that are not warranted."

Caldwell says more than 70 homeowners are also questioning their mortgage increases. Carmen Rangel is also helping other homeowners get answers.

"This person is paying like $50 or $60 more than what he is supposed to do," Rangel said. "It's just simple math. This is not algebra."

All of the mortgage payments are sent directly to the Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County office. Residents say some requests to get escrow account information have gone unanswered. Others say the documentation they did receive was questionable.

"Papers that have a bunch of white out on it, like the numbers have been changed. Some people have gotten escrow account audits, that according to the worksheet they are owed money," Caldwell explained.

Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County says while they are a non-profit, offering 20 year interest free loans, they are not exempt from tax and insurance rate increases.

Director Soleil Manzo explained, "Just because you live next door to someone doesn't mean that you are going to have the same situation, the same issues. Insurance rates are different for many reasons."

Meantime, residents say they don't mind the increases. They just want to make sure they are correct.

"The best case ending for me is to pay the right mortgage payment," Caldwell said.

Residents are asking for a group meeting to get answers. Habitat has said they can only meet individually to protect privacy rights, but will sit down with any homeowner who wants to make an appointment. Now homeowners are organizing a demonstration later this week in front of the Habitat for Humanity Northwest Harris County office.

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