02-19-2017  8:28 am      •     

Adjoa Assuman is just 20 years old. But she has a job and she's putting money aside every month, so that she can be a homeowner by the time she turns 24.

At the annual African American Homebuyers Fair, held in the atrium of Legacy Emanuel Hospital in North Portland last Saturday Oct. 28, the radiology student said her mother had inspired her. "My mom wants me to invest at a young age in a house," she said. "The fair is helping me to explore the opportunities."

Organized by the African American Alliance for Homeownership, the fair was created to make housing help available to more people. Whether you are a first-time homebuyer, a homeowner struggling to avoid foreclosure, a senior facing home repair bills, or simply a renter who wants someday to buy: there's a program for that. 

Homeowners who took out mortgages during the boom housing years have seen their homes lose value and may be locked into unaffordable mortgages. If that's your problem, or if you are facing  foreclosure some help may be available to refinance at better rates.

President Obama recently announced new rules that allow more homeowners even those who are seriously underwater, to refinance. And the State of Oregon has tightened up foreclosure rules in favor of homeowners.

For help, contact Hacienda CDC, Clearpoint Financial or the African American Alliance for Homeownership, which all have programs to help prevent foreclosure. In addition, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives is piloting a new city-sponsored program to connect people to resources that will help homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

"We will work with everyone with less than 80 percent of the median family income," says Shalonda Menefee, Home retention specialist with PCRI. "This is a resource that a lot of people need to know about."

In a strange twist, the same trends that are hurting existing homeowners have lowered home costs for first-time buyers.

George Artero of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, 
said home costs and interest rates are at their lowest point in years making this a good time for anyone with a regular income and good credit to buy.

 "The bottom line is we all want to be homeowners and right now this is a buyers market," he said. "I hope people take advantage of this because they might miss an important opportunity."

Daniel DelArroyo, a single father with two sons, said with help from the African American Alliance for Homeownership, he has been able to buy his own home.

"I am a single dad, that's true, but I  have a  job with the American Red Cross that has helped me have some resources to pay a mortgage. But I didn't have enough to do it by myself. So after some research I found the African American Alliance for Homeownership had a program to help me. Through this program I had counseling and assistance with a down-payment and a loan, and through the loan I got my dream to be a homeowner now. So my sons are doing very well in school and I'm working, and I am very, very grateful for all of your help."

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkeley came along to meet with housing professionals and citizens, and to encourage those thinking of buying.

As a former leader at the local branch of Habitat for Humanity  Merkely said this is the perfect time for as many families as possible to buy homes. "There are three ways that families get to seize a big chunk of the American Dream," he said. "One is through education, one is through opening a small business, but the most significant factor is homeownership, because otherwise you are at the mercy of market forces all your life.

"You may have a decent rental situation now but in 10 years time you have to pay 50 percent more in rent. Or maybe your situation is not so good and you are floating from here to there. But when you own the home you are locking in the price through your mortgage, and as your home appreciates in value you have real savings to bring to bear. You have that privilege of getting to paint the rooms any way you want and plant the yard the way you desire…It's yours!

Sen. Merkeley urged fair attendees to check out the IDA (Individual Development Account) savings programs that offer to match your money, making it far easier to save enough for a down payment.

 "If you are standing there thinking how am I ever going to save the $10,000 or $12,000 for a down payment and closing costs, well through an IDA you may only have to save $3,000 or $4,000." 

Oregon Plaza Building 825 NE 20th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97232 Phone number: 503-595-3517
Web address: www.aaah.org
Mortgage Delinquency and Default Resolution counseling

9955 SE Washington, Suite 301 
Portland, OR 97216 

Web address: www.clearpointccs.org
Mortgage Delinquency and Default Resolution Counseling

5136 NE 42nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97218
Phone: (503) 961-6413

Web address: www.haciendacdc.org
Mortgage Delinquency and Default Resolution Counseling
Weekly foreclosure prevention information session 

Chase, Legacy Emanuel Hospital, NW Natural, Portland Housing Bureau, TriMet.

NOTE: This article contains a correction. George Artero represents the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, not the organization originally listed.

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