It’s been around a decade since the housing meltdown and Great Recession that shook communities around the country.
At Springfield's Neighborhood Housing Partnership, services were virtually redefined by the mortgage crisis. Now, with less federal foreclosure-prevention funding available, some advocates say they’re worried the housing market's recovery could be at risk.
The Neighborhood Housing Partnership organization helps Clark County residents through a variety services, including homebuyer education, down-payment assistance, credit counseling and home-repair assistance.
The program also helps homeowners with foreclosure counseling. That’s something the group began offering almost 10 years ago. Executive Director Tina Koumoutsos says it felt like the housing crisis became visible overnight.
“The crash happened and we started to get a couple of calls saying ‘I am delinquent on my mortgage and I don’t know what to do,’ ‘I think I owe more on my mortgage then it’s worth, I lost my job and I can’t sell my house.’ And over the next three to four years it was 85 percent of what we did," she says. "The numbers were staggering - hundreds and hundreds, and even reached out to neighboring counties to assist because the resources weren’t there.
Nobody really understood the crisis until we were in the middle of it,” she says.
Koumoutsos says today, 10 years after the mortgage crisis, the situation is better in many parts of Clark County, but she wonders, for how long?
“Thankfully the foreclosure numbers have backed off dramatically, unfortunately a lot of the resources have, too. A lot of the tools that we had to save peoples mortgages and get them current aren’t available now,” referring to Obama-era programs, including the Home Affordable Modification Program and others designed to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.
Koumoutsos says she still sees big challenges for many of her clients.
“The scary thing is, and I may be jumping ahead here, is that we’re starting to see some of the pieces that we never thought we’d see again crop up in the lending industry, and there’s a shortage in housing. Everybody has talked about the shortage of inventor,y and values are starting to really, not creep up –– they’re leaping up. It’s a bubble and we know that bubbles burst. So, we’re seeing some of those trends, some of the values of the people, mortgages that we’re seeing people get themselves in, we’re starting to question, are those going to be the people that need our help three years from now. When the recession does hit, when you know the economy does slow down what happens to those people that are upside down in their mortgage?”
Kerri Brammer manages the NHP’s homeownership center and says she also sees indications that some of the problems that precipitated the housing crash may be coming around again.
says many problems could be avoided with the help of more targeted federal homeowner-assistance programs.
“The Making Home Affordable program, which was designed [...] to provide some consistency and health. Servicers were working with borrowers on hardship requests and modifying loans and determining affordability," she says. "It was extended several times but it all actually ended in 2016. So we are starting to see it’s kind of back to the wild, wild west days where servicers are not being held accountable and people are getting extremely frustrated and just giving up in terms of getting assistance.”
Brammer says once federal assistance programs expired, many Springfield organizations banded together with other housing groups in an effort to continue some of the foreclosure-prevention services they were offering during the Obama administration.
"Government funding has continued to be reduced and so we’ve had to reach out to lender partners, realtors, and we’ve been able to secure some different partners than we’ve had in the past so it’s been exciting."
She says those new partnerships may become increasingly important as economic recovery continues in Clark County.
There's an effort underway to attract more new businesses to the Springfield area to promote economic growth and jobs. And there have been recent successes as several companies have committed to big-money projects.
But, some officials say Springfield will also need more new housing developments to support those efforts and make it possible for potential new workers to live in the city.