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Anti-foreclosure effort offers more help

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About 8,800 Ohioans have been helped through the Save the Dream program, at a cost of $125 million, said Cindy Flaherty of the Ohio Housing


Jim Weiker

The Columbus Dispatch

Thursday January 31, 2013 1:49 AM

Ohio’s major foreclosure-prevention program is expanding in an effort to help more homeowners stay put.

Starting Friday, homeowners in trouble with their mortgages can receive more money for a longer time and apply it to more debts than before.

The changes are designed to broaden homeowners’ access to $570 million the state received in federal foreclosure-prevention funds in 2010.

“As our experience working with homeowners evolved and as their needs evolved, we need to keep modifying the program,” said Cindy Flaherty, director of homeownership with the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which administers the funds through its Save the Dream program.

“Our goal is to keep people in their homes.”

About 8,800 Ohioans have been helped through the program, at a cost of $125 million, including about $20 million in administrative and counseling costs.

Those numbers are higher than in most of the 18 states that received federal “Hardest Hit Funds,” but Flaherty acknowledged that administrators hoped more people would have been helped by now.

Among the changes:

• The maximum amount a homeowner can receive will rise from $25,000 to $35,000. Homeowners can use the funds to pay down a mortgage balance and help make mortgage payments. Those who previously applied under the $25,000 limit are not eligible to reapply for more funds.

• Homeowners can receive full mortgage payments for up to 18 months or $22,000, up from 15 months and $20,000.

• Homeowners now can use the funds to pay off secondary liens on a property such as tax liens, second mortgages, home-equity lines and condominium fees.

• The maximum a qualifying household can earn rose to $112,375. About 86 percent of recipients have earned less than $50,000.

In addition, administrators have changed the way they approach loan modifications, which have benefited only about a dozen Ohio homeowners, far fewer than officials had hoped.

“It’s been a big frustration,” Flaherty said.

Lenders now will be asked to apply the funds to the loan balance but keep the life of the loan the same, reducing the monthly payment. In the past, lenders applied the funds to the balance and shortened the life of the loan without changing the monthly payment.

“We have hopes that this option will work better than a standard loan modification,” Flaherty said.

Save the Dream also will streamline the application process with an eight-part questionnaire that will appear on its website on Friday.

Homeowners can apply for foreclosure assistance at or by calling 1-888-404-4674. To be eligible, homeowners must have lost their job or endured a financial hardship, earn less than $112,375 and have less than six months of mortgage payments in savings.

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