Merkley hears of local residents' foreclosure fears

Merkley hears of local residents' foreclosure fears


By:  Angelica Thornton

PORTLAND, Ore. - They used words like "horrific."
    
One person titled a PowerPoint presentation "Foreclosure Nightmare."
    
All the while, newly-elected Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley listened to the tales of woe and frustration from the group assembled in north Portland, hoping to take their advice back to Washington D.C. in order to help some of the families on the edge of losing their homes.

For many, their foreclosure dates are already scheduled, but they are still desperately trying to save their houses.
    
Will Vernon said he is about to lose his home in Happy Valley. He moved in two years ago.

In that time, the value of his house has dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars while the interest rate on his mortgage shot up.

He talked about how frustrating it has been trying to modify his mortgage through his bank.

“I've never had anything like this happen to me in my whole life,” Vernon said, “and I have a lot of faith in humanity and people.”

Merkley also heard from housing and banking experts on the housing crisis in Oregon. The state has the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation. One in every 357 homes is in foreclosure, an increase of well over 200 percent from January of 2008.

Merkley said he heard from “person after person” about getting no answers from banks or being transferred to people who could offer no real help.

Despite the recent passage of the stimulus and foreclosure assistance packages, it is likely too late for some people.

Housing counselor Stacey Howard says she has been telling most people looking for help that they need to prepare to leave their home behind.

Will Vernon’s foreclosure date is March 27. But experts say he is doing the right thing by working with his bank rather than an outside assistance company that charges a big fee up front.

Sen. Merkley said he hopes to take some of the stories and advice he got from homeowners, advocates and banking experts back to Washington D.C. and hopefully make the refinancing process a lot easier for people like Vernon.

Merkley said he thinks President Obama’s plan will help more families save their homes by giving banks incentives to work with people like Will Vernon.

But for many, any help will be coming too late.