News

Local housing programs could benefit from state grant

By CHARLIE BERMANT

Kitsap County writer

A $1.5 million allocation from the state of Washington is expected to support local housing programs that ran out of funds last year, using education and counseling to help people avoid foreclosure.

One of the benefiting agencies will be the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHS), which conducts several programs that follow guidelines established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

While the local slice of the pie is not certain, it is expected it will compensate for the loss of the $66,000 used to keep the program going last year.

KCCHS spokesperson Torie Brazitas said the HUD grant was canceled after the agency determined that because the needed funds were in Washington, the situation in California was reaching crisis proportions. So the money was allocated to where it was needed most.

“The cause of the initial problem is the lack of homeowner education,” Brazitas said. “People are being more careful now, but are still losing their homes.”

And it may get worse before it gets better. KCCHA lead counselor Marvelle Lahmeyer said the agency dealt with a total of 50 defaults during the 2007 fiscal year, but has handled the same number in just the past three months.

“We found out in October that we weren’t getting the funding,” she said. “We pulled funds from other sources to keep going because we heard the money was coming. We don’t know how much we are getting, but we are the only default counselors on the Olympic Peninsula. We are getting people from Tacoma because they can’t handle the load down there.”

Homeowners who miss one house payment are technically in default and will hear immediately from their mortgage company. They will probably not actually lose the house until they miss three payments or more.

Still, Lahmeyer said anyone who knows they are in trouble and cannot pay the mortgage should come to KCCHA as soon as there is a problem, to increase the options that are available.

The current crisis occurred because homeowners didn’t know what services were available, with lenders and real estate agents not informing first-time homebuyers about potential sources of money for the down payment, according to Lahmeyer.

The next homeowner orientation class is from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at the Helpline House, 282 Knechtel Way NE, on Bainbridge Island.

For information about this and other classes, call Laura Paton at (360) 535-6153.

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