Foreclosure-prevention changes may help Ohioans

Associated Press


Ohio’s foreclosure-prevention program has made changes aimed at helping more struggling owners remain in their homes.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which administers the “Restoring Stability” program, says the recently amended guidelines could make more people eligible for mortgage assistance. The program helps people who are unemployed or facing other financial strains, such as reduced wages or work hours, increased medical expenses, or the death of a spouse.

The changes, praised by housing advocates, affect who’s eligible for aid.

“It actually provides a deeper level of assistance,” said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, which provides housing assistance and has worked with OHFA to make sure the aid program benefits as many people as possible. “They were finding that an awful lot of the people that were coming to them for help were people that were unemployed or they may have found another job but their job paid a whole lot less than their old job.”

Under the new guidelines, a person can now have liquid assets equal to six months of mortgage payments instead of three months and still be eligible. Another change means homeowners who are unemployed or meet certain other criteria can get money for full mortgage payments, instead of the previously offered partial payments, for up to 15 months or a total of $20,000.

Faith said the setup of having an owner pay part of a mortgage and the program pay part of the mortgage had created some processing problems for mortgage servicers when the payments were received at different times.

Owners who missed mortgage payments but can now make payments can get up to $25,000 to reinstate mortgages, an increase of $10,000 from the previous limit. The money does not have to be repaid.

Eligibility also is being extended to owners who live in manufactured homes titled as real estate.

“Each of these program enhancements will help further the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s efforts in assisting thousands of Ohio homeowners struggling to maintain possession of their homes,” OHFA Executive Director Doug Garver said in a statement.

The program has helped more than 3,900 homeowners at risk of loan default or foreclosure since it was implemented with funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury in 2010, according to OHFA.

An increase in the number of foreclosure cases had been a problem in Ohio throughout the previous decade. The number of new foreclosure filings in Ohio’s courts of common pleas rose for nine straight years to a high of more than 89,000 in 2009 before dropping to about 8,500 in 2010, according to data from the Ohio Supreme Court. A summary from 2011 is not yet available.

In total, OHFA has distributed more than $31 million in mortgage payments through agreements with more than 200 mortgage servicers, the agency said.

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