The state of Oregon has received $220 million in federal funds destined to help prevent Oregonians from losing their homes to foreclosure. That's the good news. The bad news?
"There are inordinately more people in trouble than we will be able to help," said Mike Kaplan, who manages the Homeownership Stabilization Division at Oregon Housing and Community Services. "We have $220 million for a multi-billion dollar problem."
On the West Coast, Oregon and California are the only two of 18 states designated as 'hardest hit' by the U.S. Treasury. Washington's problem is smaller, but the state will have $56 million for foreclosure prevention, through the federal agency of Housing and Urban Development.
The money will be available sometime in December, through housing counseling agencies such as, the African American Alliance for Homeownership, Hacienda, and ClearPoint.
AAAH's Cheryl Roberts, says that she's hearing from nonprofits – concerned about the stream of people losing their homes to foreclosure -- who are impatient for the new resources to come online. "That money will help people bring their mortgages current," she says. "A lot of the problem is that many families have lost one source of income. We see a lot of people in that situation."
That's why, if you are worried about losing your home because you can't afford your mortgage payments, you should run -- don't walk -- to a HUD-certified housing counselor. The advice you get might save you from foreclosure or help you successfully refinance your loan. And even if the news is bad, you can get help that will help reduce the impact on your finances, your credit and your life.
"We can help people manage their debt and prioritize and budget and identify which programs they qualify for," Roberts said. "We can serve as advocates for people and help them negotiate with their lenders.
"When homeowners are working with nonprofits such as AAAH, the lender looks at it a little differently, because we are funded through HUD and HUD is tracking our results," she said.
Some of those lenders will be offering loss mitigation advice and foreclosure prevention counseling at the African American Alliance for Homeownership's 12th annual Homebuyers Fair, 10am – 2:30 pm Oct. 30 in the atrium at Emanuel Hospital. Chase Bank will be there. Wells Fargo and other lenders too may be available, along with foreclosure prevention counselors.
First-time homebuyers and people who'd like to become homeowners will also find plenty of help and encouragement at the fair. Banks are selling foreclosed properties at bargain basement prices and house prices are lower than in past years. That drop has left many homeowners in deep debt, but it has made homes affordable for new buyers. Enter the draw for $1000 toward your down-payment, get educated about your options, and enjoy a free lunch, Roberts says.
"People who want to buy homes should definitely come. We want to see them and we also want to see people who need help with mortgage problems."
In Oregon the 'Hardest Hit' funds will go to four programs, which will:
Help people who need a small amount of help to successfully modify their loans
Help people pay their mortgages for up to one year
Help people secure alternative housing when they lose their homes
Help people who have lost jobs to pay mortgage arrears and to modify their loans
The funds can be used anytime up to 2017, but Mike Kaplan says they will be gone long before that. "We are looking to use them as quickly and responsibly as possible," he said. "There are 10 people out there for every one we can help."
In Washington State, the federal HUD agency has issued $56 million in emergency foreclosure prevention funds.
"The emergency homeowner loan program makes interest-free 2-year, forgivable bridge loans of up to $50,000 to folks who are experiencing hardship through unemployment, underemployment, illness and so on," said Leland Jones, a regional representative for HUD. "The loan is intended to help them pay off arrears, and if any funds are left over, then to help reduce their monthly payments in the hope that over the next two years they'll find work and get back to their previous income level. It's to help people get back on their feet."
Jones too recommends that anyone facing foreclosure problems immediately make an appointment with a HUD-certified counselor.
"There may be additional resources available to help then through their time of trouble and to help them understand their options," Jones said. "These counselors are overworked but they have been helping thousands of people every month and they have heard every story. They are invaluable and an incredible source of knowledge for people."
AFRICAN AMERICAN ALLIANCE FOR HOMEOWNERSHIP
Oregon Plaza Building
825 NE 20th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97232
Phone number: 503-595-3517
CLEARPOINT FINANCIAL SOLUTIONS
9955 SE Washington, Suite 301
Portland, OR 97216
COMMUNITY HOUSING RESOURCE CENTER
2700 NE Andresen Road Suite D3
Vancouver, Washington 98661
Phone number: 360-690-4496
5136 NE 42nd Ave.
Portland, OR 97218
Phone: (503) 961-6413