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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 18 May 2023

SALEM, ORE. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will pause accepting new applications for the Oregon Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) program at 4 p.m. on May 31. This pause will allow OHCS to process current applications in its queue and better project the amount of federal HAF funds remaining for homeowners. The state previously paused at the end of 2022 for the same reasons and has been reopened to accepting applications since March. 

"HAF is pausing again to make sure there are enough funds for qualifying homeowners who’ve already applied," said Ryan Vanden Brink, assistant director of Homeowner Assistance Programs. "The program will likely reopen once we process additional applications already in the queue. If you are a homeowner falling behind, we encourage you to reach out to a state-approved homeownership center right away."  

Homeowners who are most at risk of foreclosure and housing displacement, socially disadvantaged individuals (as defined by U.S. Treasury), or otherwise meet one of the additional eligibility criteria listed at oregonhomeownerassistance.org are encouraged to apply for assistance before the May 31 deadline.

If a person has previously applied or begun an application, the pause will not impact them. Those who started their applications will still be able to access and complete them, and those applications that were previously submitted will still be processed. Applicants can continue to log on to the HAF portal to check the status of their application or scheduled payments. They can opt in to email alerts as their application advances.  

To serve the most at-risk homeowners, as an exception to this pause, OHCS will continue to accept new applications submitted by housing counselors on behalf of homeowners who are in a judicial foreclosure or forfeiture action or have a verified foreclosure sale date. If a person is in a judicial action or in a nonjudicial foreclosure and can provide documentation of a pending foreclosure sale date, they should apply before the pause or work with a free housing counselor to submit their application.   

OHCS planned its HAF program to operate as a safety net for the most at-risk eligible homeowners who have no viable workout options, and it will continue to operate this way during the pause. As of May 12, 2023, OHCS approved 1,027 applications, totaling over $30 million of the $72 million budgeted for homeowners. In addition, 1,301 applications are currently being reviewed and 1,320 applications have been started but not completed for processing. At least 219 of the submitted HAF applications were or are in active foreclosure.  The average award disbursed is nearly $30,000 per application. 

Free help is available 

During this pause, homeowners who have fallen behind or are at risk of missing a payment on their mortgage can continue to 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. HAF may not be the best option for everyone, and it may prevent homeowners from servicer options available for different types of loans. 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 the holidays and 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. 

Avoiding fraud 

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 report it to 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 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.  

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