Washington State Department of Financial Institutions

News Release

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lyn Peters, Director of Communications
PH (360) 902-8731 lpeters@dfi.wa.gov

Jeremy Lushene, Communications Consultant
PH (360) 902-0506 jlushene@dfi.wa.gov

Dee Taylor, Director, Washington State Housing Finance Commission
PH (206) 287-4414 Dee.Taylor@wshfc.org

Kim Herman, Executive Director, Washington State Housing Finance Commission
PH (206) 287-4427 kherman@wshfc.org


Free Homeownership Counseling Available To Washington Residents, Counselors To Be Paid With State Funding

OLYMPIA - The Washington Homeownership Information Hotline and Counseling Program kicks off March 1. The program will provide free homeownership counseling to Washington residents thinking of buying a home and current homeowners who are having trouble with their mortgage. The program is the result of $1.5 million earmarked by this year’s legislature to help educate residents about homeownership and mortgages.

The program includes a toll-free hotline, 1.877.894.HOME (4663), and informational Web site, www.homeownership.wa.gov.

While the subprime mortgage impact has been substantially lower in Washington than in other parts of the country, the number of foreclosures throughout the state continues to grow. In an effort to help Washingtonians, Governor Chris Gregoire recommended the passage of SB6272, a bill based on recommendations from the Washington Task Force for Homeowner Security. Both the Senate and House approved the bill. Governor Gregoire signed the bill Monday, Feb.11, 2008. The bill’s passage authorizes $1.5 million in emergency appropriated funds to be allocated to a statewide homeownership counseling and outreach program – and an advertising campaign encouraging Washington residents to get information to help them make sound financial decisions about mortgages and avoid foreclosure.

“Protecting families and helping them stay in their homes is important for our entire state,” Gregoire said. “I’m pleased we can provide resources to partner with trusted community organizations and help Washington consumers."

A majority of the funds are being granted to the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) for distribution to qualified counseling agencies. The WSHFC is pre-screening state counseling agencies seeking funding and providing funds to qualified, non-biased counseling agencies that have been in business for at least two years. Assistance for residents living in areas heavily impacted by foreclosure and subprime mortgage penetration will be emphasized.

“We are very excited about this program,” WSHFC Executive Director Kim Herman said. “Our counseling partners provide unbiased information to current and future homebuyers and help them examine their options. Our goal is to help families make good housing choices for their future wellbeing.”

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) is overseeing implementation of the program. This program follows a Fall 2007 campaign DFI urging Washington homeowners to get educated about their mortgages and seek assistance with their mortgage problems prior to foreclosure.

“It’s a simple concept: better educated consumers make better financial decisions,” DFI Director Scott Jarvis said. “It’s important for people to understand exactly what they’re getting into before they sign anything. Before making any agreements, people need to know they can make their mortgage payments – both now and in the future.”

Residents seeking counseling should call the toll-free hotline, 1.877.894.HOME (4663), or visit the informational Web site, www.homeownership.wa.gov.

About DFI
www.dfi.wa.gov ▪ 360.902-8700 ▪ 877.746-4334 ▪ En Espaņol 877.976.4422
The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions regulates a variety of financial service providers such as banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, consumer loan companies, payday lenders, and securities brokers and dealers. The department has won numerous awards for its financial literacy and outreach programs developed to protect consumers from financial fraud. In addition to posting information about licensees and administrative actions, the DFI’s Web site features consumer tips on a variety of financial fraud-related topics.

Washington State Housing Finance Commission
www.wshfc.org ▪ 800.767.4663 (HOME)
The Washington State Housing Finance Commission is a publicly accountable, self-supporting team dedicated to increasing housing access and affordability and to expanding the availability of quality community services for the people of Washington.