In Oregon, high numbers of new foreclosure filings continue, even as the housing market continues to make slow progress toward recovery in some states. This prompted the Oregon Housing Alliance, an NLIHC state partner, to join other advocates in asking the state legislature’s Emergency Board to approve $659,300 for ongoing operation of the Oregon Foreclosure Avoidance (OFA) Program.
The OFA Program to prevent unnecessary foreclosures began in August of 2013. The program uses mediators to facilitate face-to-face conversations between homeowners and their lenders with the goal of pursuing outcomes other than foreclosure. Options may include loan modifications that lead to lower payments, or, in some cases, to willingly surrender the house in order to avoid the negative credit and legal record of an official foreclosure. In addition, counseling agencies help individuals understand complicated legal documents.
Foreclosure prevention is also essential to minimize the number of foreclosed homeowners entering the rental housing market and driving up market rents. The OFA Program also benefits renters when homeowners who rent a portion of their property are able to continue operating as a landlord. The impact of foreclosure on both renters and homeowners enabled the Oregon Housing Alliance to mobilize a broad segment of its base.
According to CoreLogic data from June of this year, 23,000 Oregonians are at least 90 days delinquent on their mortgage payments, and more than 41,000 are underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than the market value of their home. The OFA program works with approximately 157 new cases each month. Some homeowners facing foreclosure could not receive counseling prior to lender conferences due to the limited number of counseling slots available.
Advocates worried that funding for foreclosure avoidance counseling would run out before the next state biennial budget appropriation process because the demand for foreclosure counseling was greater than anticipated at the outset of the OFA Program. Consequently, the legislature’s Emergency Board had to step in to appropriate the additional funding. While advocates are glad that the $659,300 supplemental allocation will keep services going through March, 2015, they are already preparing to call on the Emergency Board again if the demand for counseling increases.
“The overwhelming demand for these services may require us to ask the legislature for additional funding,” said Janet Byrd, convener of the Oregon Housing Alliance. “The OFA Program has made a huge impact already and will require continued support for all components to ensure our communities recover from the effects of the foreclosure crisis.”
For more information about organizing efforts to support the Oregon Foreclosure Avoidance Program, contact Omar Carrillo Tinajero, Policy Manager at Neighborhood Partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org