High unemployment and reduced home values have pushed mortgage foreclosure rates to unprecedented levels in Ohio with one in every 518 housing units in foreclosure, according to data from Realty Trac. The "shadow inventory" of loans currently in foreclosure and properties now owned by lenders clouds the hope of recovery. With just 100,980 home sales in 2010, the market has shrunk almost 30 percent from its peak in 2005, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors (OAR). Nonetheless, there is a silver lining to the state's housing woes.
The September Housing Scorecard recently released by the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury found that the nation's housing market showed an improvement in home prices for the fourth consecutive month despite the continued strain from foreclosures and distressed sales. The scorecard also found that mortgage defaults and foreclosure completions continued to decrease as more homeowners received mortgage relief assistance. One such relief program is Ohio's Restoring Stability initiative.
More than 2,900 homeowners have been assisted through Ohio's statewide foreclosure prevention program, Restoring Stability: A Save the Dream Ohio Initiative. Launched on Sept. 27, 2010, the program administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) and funded through the U.S. Department of Treasury's Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) recently reached its one year anniversary.
Restoring Stability helps homeowners with financial hardships such as unemployment, reduced wages or hours, death of a spouse, increased medical expenses or divorce to avoid foreclosure. Qualifying homeowners may get help bringing their mortgage current, paying their monthly mortgage payments during a period of unemployment, reducing their principal balance in connection with a loan modification or transitioning out of homeownership through a short sale.
OHFA has developed agreements with more than 200 mortgage servicers and has distributed more than $23 million in mortgage payments, making Restoring Stability one of the largest programs in the nation. Homeowners may apply for the program through an online application and work with a trained housing counselor to complete the process.
Programs like Restoring Stability are essential to stabilizing Ohio's economy where the unemployment rate remains more than nine percent. In fact, 73 percent of the homeowners assisted through the Restoring Stability program are currently unemployed and unable to qualify for most loan modification and foreclosure prevention programs. As Restoring Stability moves into its second year, OHFA expects to assist at least 8,000 additional households who would otherwise be at risk of foreclosure.
For more information on the Restoring Stability program, visit savethedream.ohio.gov or call the toll-free hotline at 888-404-4674.
Garver is the executive director of the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) and oversees the lead agency for affordable housing in Ohio. OHFA offers many opportunities to help Ohio families obtain affordable, quality housing.