|The African American Homeownership Fair, held each fall, offers help to first-time homebuyers and also helps struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure|
A new program to help underwater homeowners refinance will be tested in Multnomah County starting in April.
The program is aimed at helping homeowners who can't refinance because, after the housing crash, they now owe more than their home is worth. The program will help some of those homeowners refinance their mortgages, at the current lower interest rates –around 4 percent.
"This is for people who are stuck with a high interest rate, but would be eligible for refinancing except that they are underwater," said Ben Pray, policy advisor with the State of Oregon's Housing and Community Services.
"We expect about 50 homeowners to benefit the first time around. It's a very small program, but if we find it has legs, it may become more of a national model."
The pilot program will be launched in April. Interested homeowners can find out if they are eligible online or though housing assistance programs, such as the African American Alliance for Homeownership 503-595-3517or Hacienda Inc., 503-595-2111 Federal "hardest hit" funds support the project, which came about because of advocacy by Sen. Jeff Merkley. Sen. Merkley's housing proposal, "The 4 % Mortgage: Rebuilding American Homeownership" is the blueprint for the pilot program.
"… we have not done nearly enough for American families who are struggling from the effects of the downturn in the housing market," Sen. Merkley said in a press release.
"I strongly believe helping families who are trapped in high-interest rate mortgages is the fastest way to get our economy back on track. I am proud that Oregon is pioneering this program and that it may serve as a national model to reduce foreclosures around the country."
Need Help with Arrears or Paying Your Mortgage?
Pray said additional foreclosure prevention programs also are available, for homeowners who have fallen behind with mortgages, or are struggling to pay because they are unemployed.
"There are multiple programs available for homeowners, and we have room in them now," Pray said.
The Mortgage Payment Assistance Program is designed to help unemployed homeowners pay their mortgage while looking for work. The Loan Preservation Assistance program will help people who can pay their mortgages, but have arrears due to hardship. That program can offer up to $20,000 to pay off arrears.
To apply for the pilot project or any of the other foreclosure prevention programs: Contact the African American Alliance for Homeownership, 503-595-3517, or Hacienda Inc., 503-595-2111, or visit http://oregonhomeownerhelp.org