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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Closing Down Two Federally-Funded Mortgage Assistance Programs

Nick Bastian

The state of Oregon is shutting down two federal bailout programs this month meant to keep struggling homeowners from losing their house. The reason? Lack of interest.

One of the programs helps people who are now making payments but have racked up late fees and penalties from earlier in the loan. Turns out fewer than 200 people even qualified for it. The money is from a federal housing bailout called the Hardest Hit Fund.

Ben Pray of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department says Oregon got $220 million to use, but little to no federal guidance on how to distribute the money.

"We weren't given programs. We had to sort of design them," Pray says. "So it may not be one that fits the needs of Oregonians."

Another Oregon program paid up to $20,000 in mortgage costs for unemployed homeowners. That's been a little more popular but Pray says it's being redesigned to broaden the eligibility. Oregon is the only northwest state to qualify for this federal money.

Participation in these two programs may be low, but of the 18 states that received the money, Oregon is near the top in terms of percentage distributed.

On the Web:

Oregon Hardest Hit program - Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative 
Hardest Hit Fund, state-by-state information - US Dept. of the Treasury