Homeowners should get foreclosure help in April

Oregon homeowners who have qualified but are waiting to receive a loan through the Obama administration's foreclosure-prevention program should expect to see money moving their way no later than the end of April.

As one of 18 states and the District of Columbia that received aid through the $5 billion Hardest Hit Fund, Oregon was allotted $220 million.

None of the 6,000 approved applicants in Oregon has received a loan from the state's Mortgage Payment Assistance program. yet. Money is expected to be paid out by the end of April or May. (Clarification: See below.)

"It's really unfortunate for those applicants at this point, because some folks have probably lost their home already," said Cindy Dyer, director of housing and rental assistance for Jackson County's ACCESS Inc.

The Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative, the program established to disburse Oregon's share of the federal aid, contracted with ACCESS to qualify homeowners for the MPA program in Jackson and Josephine counties, where 500 applications were processed during the sign-up period between Dec. 10, 2010, and Jan. 14, 2011, Dyer said.

With a $100 million budget, the MPA program is the largest of four separate foreclosure-prevention programs created under OSHI and approved by the U.S. Treasury Department for spending the allotted $220 million in aid. Only states with unemployment rates exceeding 12 percent in 2009 and an unstable housing market qualified for the Hardest Hit Fund money. In Oregon, 15,000 applications for the MPA loan were received.

As applicants were being approved for the loan, OHSI was busy signing up homeowners' lenders to receive mortgage payments. Approved applicants are receiving either 12 months of payments or $20,000, but the payments are made directly from OHSI to the homeowners' mortgage lenders.

"A number of the folks are on board and are all set to go, but we are still chunking through that list of (mortgage lenders)," said Lisa Joyce, a spokeswoman for OHSI.

As of Saturday, OHSI had only about 40 of 190 participating mortgage providers ready to receive payments, but it isn't because lenders are reluctant, said Joyce.

"It's just a time-consuming process," she said. "Everyone should be receiving payments at least by the end of April, but hopefully sooner."

Most larger banking institutions are signed up with the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Program, but smaller banks, lenders and credit unions are still in the process and should be signed up to handle the loans by late April or May. (Clarification: See below.)

Joyce said OHSI has received "a few" reports of approved applicants whose homes are being foreclosed on due to the delay of their loan. She urged applicants who face immediate foreclosure to call OHSI directly so it can negotiate an extension with their lender.

"There have been a few cases where mortgage foreclosures have happened," Joyce said. "We are dealing with them on a case-by-case basis."

"This program is going to be an essential way for people who have been struggling though this recession to get back on their feet and play an active role in the continuing economic recovery," Joyce said.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4468 or email samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.

Clarification: This story has been updated to remove incorrect information provided to the Mail Tribune.

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