State foreclosure assistance available

The third round of a state-sponsored, federally funded foreclosure-prevention program will become available to qualified residents in Jackson and Josephine counties this week.

The Home Rescue Program provides monthly mortgage assistance of up to $20,000 over a 12-month period or payments of up to $10,000 to help people get caught up on present mortgages that are in arrears.

"We've seen good results so far," said Ben Pray, a spokesman for Oregon Housing Community Services. "When you try to find the most effective instruments to help homeowners, we've found buying time for them is something that has proven effective nationally, not just in Oregon.

Applicants must have lost at least 10 percent of their income compared to 2011 or 2012, and meet other criteria.

The online gate for the first 100 applications opens at noon Wednesday and closes next Tuesday, Aug. 6. Once the first 100 applications are filed, however, the digital gate will close until the following Wednesday, Aug. 14.

People who go to the application website at can determine whether they qualify to apply.

An online checklist, for example, will reveal that homeowners whose first mortgage is a home equity line of credit aren't eligible, and neither are people with vacation homes or rentals.

"Qualification" doesn't mean automatic approval, Pray stressed.

"But if you qualify to apply, there's a pretty good chance of approval. We have a video and eligibility criteria and customer service to assist people, so there shouldn't be surprises."

The application involves six to seven online pages, and wage, mortgage, bank and other statements will be needed.

"It's no different than going through the mortgage process," Pray said. "Even if one document is missing, it slows down the application and approval process. The burden is on the applicant, so they need to be as informed as possible."

Depending on how fast the 50-person staff can process the first 100 applications, Pray said, the spigot may widen to 200 or 250 for later cycles.

Pray said the first two rounds in 2010 and 2012 — both a bit different than this one — drew a large response in a state where unemployment was well above the national norm.

"The state of affairs for foreclosures is much different now, but there is still a need," he said.

Three northwest counties — Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook — and two in Southern Oregon — Klamath and Lake — got a head start on the third round, allowing rural residents a chance to jump in early, Pray said. Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties, in the Portland metropolitan area, will enter the program Aug. 28.

Pray said it takes about four months for decisions about approval, depending on the completeness and complexity of individual applications.

Funds are from the Treasury Department's "Hardest Hit Fund," which allocated $220 million to Oregon in 2010 to administer foreclosure-prevention programs. Federal funds went to 19 states, including Arizona, California and Nevada in the West.

Oregon Housing and Community Services administers the program through the Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative, in cooperation with local nonprofit partners — ACCESS in the Rogue Valley.

OHIS has thus far delivered more than $93 million in assistance to more than 8,000 homeowners. Pray said the third iteration could add another 2,500 to the role, depending on how much is awarded to participants.

"If the mortgage we're paying is $1,000, then over 12 months we would only use $12,000 of a potential $20,000," Pray said.

"It's the same idea for home reinstatement. If every homeowner uses $10,000, we can help fewer people. But if everyone approved is only a month or two behind, that would allow us to help more people."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness.

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