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County teams up with SNAP to assist homeowners

Fri., April 26, 2013

Grant to fund low-interest loans

Spokane County is joining a local nonprofit in an effort to keep struggling homeowners from foreclosure.

People who fall behind on property tax payments and those who haven’t been able to pay sewer hookup charges are now being referred to SNAP, a nonprofit that offers help in resolving home finance issues.

“Nobody wants to lose their homes,” said county Treasurer Rob Chase.

Last year, SNAP received $3.1 million from the National Mortgage Settlement through the state attorney general’s office.

The grant is funding a comprehensive program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, including low-interest loans that could be used to pay off tax and sewer liens as well as unfavorable mortgage contracts.

The county utilities department currently has 1,800 liens against property owners who have not paid sewer bills. Of those, about 100 are facing foreclosure, officials said.

The county earlier this year sent letters to delinquent property owners warning them of foreclosures. The county has since received payment on about a third of the delinquent accounts.

Each year the county treasurer has about 50 delinquent accounts that face foreclosure due to three years of unpaid property taxes.

SNAP hopes to halt 500 foreclosures during the next five years. Its program offers counseling, education and case management, said Monica Lloyd, SNAP’s housing counseling program manager.

“We are going to take a holistic approach when we work with homeowners,” she said.

Homeowners who qualify may be able to get a loan at 4 percent interest to pay off liens and mortgages, she said.

The grant money is intended to create a revolving fund so the loans can be offered on a continuing basis, Lloyd said.

Lloyd said the most common reason people are facing foreclosure is because of a major illness or death of a spouse.

The National Mortgage Settlement provided $1.5 billion nationwide from the country’s five largest mortgage lenders for their roles in the home mortgage crisis that started in 2008.

For more information, contact the treasurer’s office at (509) 477-4713, the utilities billing department at (509) 477-3604, county veterans services at (509) 477-3690 and SNAP’s financial access and housing counseling program at (509) 456-7106.

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