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Advocates: More Money Needed for Foreclosure Mediation

PHOTO: Oregon gets a "D" on a new national scorecard for its 3.5 percent foreclosure rate and general lack of affordability for home ownership. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: Oregon gets a "D" on a new national scorecard for its 3.5 percent foreclosure rate and general lack of affordability for home ownership. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
January 30, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon's foreclosure rate is higher than the national average, according to a new financial scorecard. It gives the state a "D" for a housing market that is unaffordable for many and still pulling out of the mortgage crisis.

Advocates for homeowners at risk say the low grade is no surprise, and they will soon ask the legislature for more funding for foreclosure mediation. Lenders in Oregon are now required to offer alternatives to keep people from losing their homes.

Emily Reiman, Opportunity Works manager for NEDCO, a nonprofit neighborhood development group, says homeowners are lining up since the Foreclosure Avoidance Program went into effect in August.

"Through November and December, counseling agencies started seeing more and more clients," said Reiman. "In January, we're actually on pace to see as many clients statewide, just in this month, as we saw in the entire last quarter of 2013."

Reiman says some of the large lenders haven't even started filing cases for mediation - and if the pace continues, the groups trained to counsel homeowners will be out of funding before summer. They'll be asking state lawmakers for $800,000 to keep up with the demand.

Janet Byrd, executive director, Neighborhood Partnerships, points out that the biggest mortgage lenders settled a national lawsuit that brought $29 million to Oregon to mitigate the effects of the recession's mortgage meltdown - but state lawmakers used more than half of it for other purposes. Now, she says, the funding needs to match the intentions of the new foreclosure avoidance law.

"We were one of the states most significantly impacted by the housing bubble and the foreclosure crisis. We've taken some good policy steps to address the needs of homeowners facing foreclosure, but we need to put the money into the system, to make the system function effectively," Byrd advised.

The scorecard, from the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), says Oregon's foreclosure rate is 3.5 percent, compared to 3.3 percent nationally. And it ranks the state 45th for homeownership being out of reach for so many.

The CFED "Assets & Opportunity Scorecard" is being released today (Jan. 30) at www.cfed.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR