The Wall Street Journal (12/23, A2, Wotapka) reports that HUD on Tuesday instructed FHA-approved lenders to offer temporary help, including a suspension or reduction of loan payments, to people with tainted Chinese drywall in their homes. FHA Commissioner David Stevens said lenders have been asked “to extend temporary relief to allow these families time to remove problem damaging drywall and repair their homes.” HUD also said Community Development Block Grant funds could be used to help fix damages homes. In a statement, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has been seeking help for drywall victims, said, “This is the first real good news we’ve had.”

The Tampa (FL) Tribune (12/23, Behnken) reports HUD also called on FHA lenders “to waive late fees for a time while the homeowner remediates the drywall. The assistance options vary, depending on the homeowners’ situation.” Mr. Stevens is quoted as saying, “We want to remove additional pressures for these families as they find solutions to allow them to return to a safe, decent and sanitary home.”

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (12/23, Mowbray) reports HUD “cleared the way” Tuesday for the Louisiana Recovery Authority “and local governments to use Community Development Block Grant funds to help people with toxic drywall in their homes. ‘That is very big news,’ said Christina Stephens, spokeswoman for the Recovery Authority.” HUD’s announcement, says the NOTP, “takes a major step toward making funds available to help drywall victims,” but money “cannot be disbursed until the federal government comes up with protocols on how to test for drywall and agrees on the proper way to remediate damage. Those decisions are expected to be made early next year.” The “announcement also means that the Recovery Authority could make funds available to non-Road Home applicants with drywall problems, if money could be found.” WVUE-TV New Orleans, LA (12/22) and WTVT-TV Tampa, FL (12/22) also reported on HUD’s announcement.