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Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will resume accepting new applications for the Oregon Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) Program on March 8, 2023. The agency estimates there are enough funds to support about 700 additional eligible homeowners. The program offers federal temporary COVID-19 emergency mortgage relief intended to support homeowners who have experienced severe financial hardships due to the pandemic. It provides funding for past-due mortgages and other housing expenses, as well as ongoing payment assistance, to a limited number of homeowners with low to moderate incomes.
The pause that began on Nov. 30, 2022, allowed OHCS to assess current applications in its queue, complete minor system maintenance and upgrades, and better project the amount of HAF funds remaining for homeowners. As an exception during the pause, the program has continued serving the most at-risk homeowners. OHCS is accepting new applications submitted by housing counselors on behalf of homeowners who are in a judicial action or have a verified foreclosure sale date.
"Keeping families in their homes has been a collaborative effort with Oregon’s housing counseling agencies, which provide advice and advocacy for struggling homeowners across the state," said Ryan Vanden Brink, assistant director of Homeowner Assistance Programs. "If you are a homeowner falling behind, don’t delay, reach out to a state approved homeownership center right away."
HAF will reopen with a focus on homeowners in active foreclosure and those traditionally underserved by mortgage markets. Homeowners can learn more about eligibility requirements and, if eligible, apply online starting March 8, 2023, at oregonhomeownerassistance.org.
HAF funding is limited. The state is prioritizing Oregon households that are at the highest risk of foreclosure. Once the $72 million of funding available for homeowners is gone, the program will close. Even if homeowners are eligible, there is no guarantee their application will be funded. Other loss mitigation options depend on a homeowner’s mortgage and their servicer. Homeowners should evaluate all their options.
Free help is available
Homeowners can get free help from certified housing counselors around the state to learn about budgeting tools and evaluation of options to keep their homes, such as modifications, adding deferred payments to the end of a mortgage, or HAF. Housing counselors are knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated professionals who can help homeowners communicate with their mortgage servicers.
Search the full list of free certified housing counselors by county. Homeowners should be aware that some housing counseling agencies take longer to respond due to remote working policies.
In addition to connecting with a certified housing counselor, Oregon homeowners should directly contact their mortgage servicers and lenders to see what types of mortgage assistance and foreclosure prevention programs are available. Homeowners who communicate with their lenders and servicers have some additional protections and usually have more time to figure out their options.
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services recommends being extremely cautious with offers to help from unauthorized companies or people. Homeowners are urged not to provide financial or personal information unless they verify the company or person’s licensing status. It does not cost anything to apply for the HAF program or meet with an Oregon housing counselor.
There are a number of common warning signs homeowners should watch out for that may indicate a scam. If a homeowner suspects they’re being contacted by a scammer, they can file a report with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Oregon Department of Justice, or the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General.
To verify a lender’s license, visit the Division of Financial Regulation’s license page and compare it with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS) license number. This number must be included on all advertising materials and should be easy to find. To verify a housing counseling agency’s status with the state, make sure they are listed on the OHCS website.
Source: Oregon Housing and Community Services