Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Got housing issues? Maybe we can help!

The economy is getting better and our unemployment rate is lower than it has been in years, but times are still tough, and one of the hardest hit areas is housing. This session we passed bills that will help the homeless, provide housing assistance, and lend a hand to homeowners in crisis.

We’re supporting proven services that reduce homelessness with HB 2048, which expands highly successful programs that provide services for the homeless. On any given day, 23,000 people are homeless in Washington. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, will raise $126 million over the next five years for state and local homeless programs via a $10 increase in certain document recording fees.

With the passage of HB 2640, we’re improving the cost-effectiveness of housing assistance. This measure will help Housing Trust Fund dollars go further by emphasizing cost-effectiveness of investments. It requires the Housing Trust Fund to consider both total costs and the cost of housing per unit when reviewing applications for funding.

HB 2614, sponsored by Rep.Phyllis Gutiérrez Kenney, is a comprehensive bill aimed at helping homeowners in crisis by providing alternatives, remedies, and assistance. This measure brings clarity to the short-sale process. A short sale is when a lender accepts a discount on a mortgage to avoid foreclosure. But in some cases the homeowner is still on the hook for the outstanding debt.  HB 2614 creates a notice mechanism so that homeowners are informed if the lender/bank will still collect what’s left of the debt after the home is sold, and it reduces the amount of time, from six to three years, that lenders have to pursue homeowners for remaining debts.

To further help struggling homeowners, HB 2614 was amended to include the provisions of two other consumer protection bills that got stuck in the legislative process:

Rep. Tina Orwall’s HB 2421 makes important changes to the Foreclosure Fairness Act of 2011 to make the mediation program run more smoothly, and streamline the demands on lenders:
  • Meet and confer process can be over the phone.
  • More time for scheduling mediations.
  • More time (120 days instead of 90) between the notice of sale and the trustee sale.
Sen. Adam Kline’s SB 6515 provides remedies for when a home is lost due to mistakes in the trustee sale. Currently, if you lose your home because of a mistake in the foreclosure process, it is impossible to get it back. These provisions allow for the trustee sale to be void if:
  • There was an error in the foreclosure sale process.
  • There was an agreement for a loan modification or other agreement to postpone the sale.
  • The services accepted funds to satisfy the loan when they had no legal duty to do so.
To read this post in Spanish, click here.