COLUMBUS, OH – March 5, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) visited Columbus Housing Partnership’s housing advisory center today to outline the need for additional federal foreclosure funds for Ohio. Brown outlined his efforts to bring more foreclosure assistance to Ohio – including efforts to improve the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and ensure that Ohio is included in future awards from the Help for the Hardest-Hit Housing Markets (4HM) program.
“Ohio is on the frontline of the foreclosure crisis,” Brown said. “I’m proud of the work COHHIO and Columbus Housing Partnership are doing to keep Ohioans in their homes. But they need more reinforcements from the federal government. Too many Ohioans are trying to modify their mortgages so they can hold onto their homes, but getting nothing but the run around from their lenders. Too many communities are seeing vacant and abandoned properties that lower surrounding property values and compromise economic development. These homeowners and communities deserve better.”
Brown was joined by Amy Klaben, President and CEO of Columbus Housing Partnership, who discussed the importance of increased federal funding for HUD-certified housing counseling organizations. Bill Faith, of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), released a new analysis demonstrating why Ohio should be included in federal foreclosure assistance programs. Denise Jefferson, of Columbus, discussed how the Columbus Housing Partnership (CHP) has helped her get approved for a loan modification so she can avoid foreclosure.
“There are still many families in our community and in our state who desperately need help,” said Columbus Housing Partnership’s Amy Klaben. “With high unemployment and high foreclosure rates projected to continue, it is vital that organizations like Columbus Housing Partnership have the resources necessary to help those facing foreclosure.”
Brown is working to improve the federal loan modification program so that more Ohioans can lower their monthly payments and stay in their homes. In February, Brown wrote to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to suggest improvements to the HAMP program so that more Ohio families avoid foreclosure. The HAMP program was designed to encourage banks to modify mortgages to prevent foreclosures. Ohio continues to rank forty-eighth among the fifty states and the District of Columbia in the number of homeowners who have been able to modify their mortgages for lower payments through Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Only 14.8 percent of seriously delinquent loans have been modified through HAMP in Ohio, and only 8 percent of trial modifications have been converted into permanent modifications. Brown also urged more federal funding for foreclosure prevention counseling programs.
“HAMP is not working in Ohio,” said COHHIO’s Bill Faith. “But homeowner foreclosure prevention counseling is working to keep people in their homes. For about $300, we can significantly increase the possibility of the homeowner keeping their home while lowering the lender’s risk of losing a stable funding stream. Yet, the administration cut funding for this effective strategy by two-thirds nationally — from $180 million last year to $65 million this year. With so much at stake, we need to increase rather than decrease funding for these effective prevention strategies.”
Last month, Brown called on President Obama to expand the Help for the Hardest-Hit Housing Markets (4HM) program to Ohio. On Feb. 19, President Obama announced that he would use $1.5 billion in leftover funds from the TARP program to help states with high unemployment in which the average home price for all homeowners has fallen more than 20 percent from peak. The report released today by COHHIO shows Ohio ranks sixth in the nation for total number of so-called “underwater” mortgage holders who owe more for their homes than their properties are worth
Brown has also been a long-time advocate of efforts to help revitalize communities devastated by the foreclosure crisis, including the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). He fought for the creation of NSP in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and the continuation of the program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. In Sep. 2008, Brown announced that Ohio communities would receive more than $258 million in NSP funds authorized by the housing bill. In Sep. 2009, Brown wrote to Secretary Donovan in support of Ohio applicants to the second wave of funding through the NSP program. In Jan. 2010, Ohio communities received an additional $175 million in funds through the second wave of the program. Brown also introduced the Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act of 2009 with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH0 and Brian Higgins (D-NY). This legislation would create a new, competitive grant program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) targeted toward cities and metropolitan areas experiencing large-scale property vacancy and abandonment due to long-term employment and population losses.