Homeowners have another chance at state money for mortgage relief

Homeowners who are struggling with mortgage payments will get another chance at some relief, starting Wednesday when the state resumes accepting applications for a pandemic-related mortgage assistance program.

The Oregon Homeowner Assistance Fund provides temporary mortgage relief to people who experienced severe financial hardships because of the pandemic, providing money for expenses and past-due payments, as well as ongoing payment assistance.

The state distributor of the funds, Oregon Housing and Community Services, paused its acceptance of new applications on Nov. 30, while it had 2,087 applications waiting in the pipeline with 317 of those approved.

Of those, 82 were paid or in payment, with an average award of $26,664 as of November, according to Delia Hernández, agency spokeswoman. She said it used the break to address the waiting applications, make minor system upgrades and better project remaining available funds. 

During the pause, agency officials still accepted applications from the most at-risk homeowners – those facing foreclosure – through housing counselors, and will continue to focus there.

The opened process will “focus on homeowners in active foreclosure and those traditionally underserved by mortgage markets,” the agency said in a release. 

As of November, six applications in Marion County had been approved with scheduled payments totaling $166,643, according to agency data.There were no Polk county applications with scheduled payments at that time.

The application process will reopen on March 8, with enough money to help an estimated 700 homeowners, according to the agency. 

As of the pause, the agency said $55.7 million of the $72 million budgeted for the aid program has been allocated to applications already being processed.

Eligibility requirements for the funding include demonstrated financial hardships – such as a reduction in income or increase in living expenses – that had an impact after January 21, 2020. It must also be for the homeowner’s primary residence, and they must meet income eligibility requirements. 

The free application will be online starting Wednesday, March 8, with limited funding available.

For Marion County residents, the Farmworker Housing Development Corporation can help prospective applicants. DevNW is available for Polk County residents. 

Additional help is available beyond the grant, through free professional counseling for homeowners, including budgeting and evaluating alternate payment options, provided by DevNW in both counties through partnership with the state housing agency.

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.