Can Ore. lawmakers boost home ownership?

State gets 'D' grade on helping people buy, keep homes

Compared with other states, Oregon ranks near the bottom of the list  in a new report about housing affordability and the rate of home ownership.

The state received a "D" for not doing enough to help people buy and keep their homes, on a new national scorecard from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

A statewide committee is working on recommendations to change that.

Emily Reiman is the OpportunityWorks program manager with NEDCO (Neighborhood Economic Development Corp.), a Eugene-based community development group.

She said the ideas include more state funding for down payment assistance programs, as well as education for new buyers.

"What the OregonON Homeownership Policy Committee and NEDCO are trying to encourage is for the state to start looking ahead to the end of the foreclosure crisis," she said, "and start to increase our investment in home ownership again. We know it's good for low- to moderate-income families, and we know it's good for the economy of the whole state of Oregon."

The foreclosure crisis is far from over, and Reiman said state lawmakers will also be asked to make changes to the foreclosure mediation process.

Most are minor, but one would expand mediation to all foreclosure cases. Currently, only non-judicial foreclosures -- those that are not in court -- include mediation directly between banks and homeowners, Reimain explained.

"Some of the banks are trying to put forward the argument that we shouldn't expand the program before we fix it," she said. "But we're arguing that both can happen simultaneously -- that we can get those small fixes through and we can expand access to more homeowners -- so that consumers are getting the help they need as quickly as possible."

The CFED scorecard said six in 10 Oregon families own their homes, but that is below the national average. Oregon's high housing prices keep homes out of reach for many, and these prices also affect renters, CFED reported.

The CFED scorecard results for Oregon are online at http://scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/.

Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this article.

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