By Myers Reece, 8-04-12
||Caption: Attorney General Steve Bullock unveils a new program in Kalispell that aims to help Montanans who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
On Aug. 2 in Kalispell, Attorney General Steve Bullock announced a statewide foreclosure prevention program to help struggling homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes.
Joining Bullock at the Ashley Square complex were representatives of several agencies and organizations partnering with his office on the new program, including Maureen Rude, director of operations for NeighborWorks Montana, and Tom Jacobson, executive director of Rural Dynamics.
Bullock unveiled the plan a day earlier in Bozeman. He said he chose to hold announcement conferences in Gallatin and Flathead counties because “by and large they are the ones hardest hit” by the housing collapse.
Over a three-year period, the program will be funded by the $5.8 million Montana received as part of a national settlement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses and fraud.
The total settlement was $25 billion and each state’s portion was decided by a formula based on population size and foreclosure numbers. Bullock was one of 49 state attorney generals to join the settlement.
“Wall Street and the so-called ‘too big to fail’ banks have a lot to answer for,” Bullock said. “Their greed and their rampant abuse of our financial system have hurt millions of people – including some homeowners here in Flathead County and throughout Montana.”
The program aims to make it easier for struggling homeowners to find assistance by partnering Bullock’s office with housing specialists across the state. A “one-stop” online resource called “Keep My Montana Home” has been established.
Bullock said the program will achieve its goals in three primary ways: by spreading the word to Montanans facing possible foreclosures about where they can get assistance; hiring housing counselors and lawyers; and monitoring to make sure banks are living up to their end of the settlement.
Homeowners will be put in touch with housing specialists to survey their options for mortgage relief, such as refinancing and other loan modifications. Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher has lent her support to the program.
The plan directs $3 million to NeighborWorks, a Montana Board of Housing program, which will collaborate with the Office of Consumer Protection and service providers to offer one-on-one housing counseling services. The money will be used to hire and staff counselors.
Kalispell will have two staffed housing counselors from Rural Dynamics, which is a “certified consumer credit counseling agency.” The counselors won’t have an office until Sept. 1 but will be available over the phone until then. Rural Dynamics used to have an office in Kalispell until last year.
“For us it’s an amazing opportunity to turn around and reopen an office here,” Jacobson said.
Almost another $1 million will be directed to the Montana Legal Services Association to provide free legal advice and representation to some homeowners facing foreclosure. Other dollars will go into the state’s general fund.
Money will be retained for ongoing enforcement by Bullock’s office to prevent and prosecute fraud, monitor the settlement and work with lenders to “ensure that Montanans are getting the relief they deserve.”
“By directing the bulk of the settlement funds to additional, on-the-ground housing counselors across Montana,” Bullock said, “we will be able to reach as many struggling homeowners as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can help them keep their homes.”
For more information, visit www.keepmymontanahome.com or call 1-800-481-6896.
[End of article]