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Nevada AG outlines aid for distressed homeowners

Ken Ritter, Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Nevada's state attorney general and the head of a Las Vegas nonprofit consumer counseling agency unveiled a program and an advertising campaign Monday aimed at giving distressed homeowners facing foreclosure a free one-stop place to seek counseling, referrals and legal support.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto expressed frustration with the pace of aid to displaced homeowners hurt most in the state hardest hit during the recession by foreclosures, bankruptcies and unemployment.

"There are people who are suffering in our state — homeowners, borrowers — and they don't know where to go," Masto told reporters.

Masto and Michele Johnson, head of the nonprofit Financial Guidance Center in Las Vegas said residents will begin seeing television, print and brochure advertising in English and Spanish inviting people to contact the statewide homeowner aid program called "Home Again."

Johnson said the idea is for counselors who know programs that are available to guide borrowers to programs that can help.

Entities taking part include Nevada Legal Services and the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, and federal Housing and Urban Development-approved agencies such as Housing for Nevada, the Women's Development Center, Community Services of Nevada, Neighborhood Housing Services, Novadebt, Springboard and Chicanos Por La Causa.

Masto acknowledged the difficulty of reaching displaced homeowners whose addresses change when they are forced to move.

She said the program hopes to reach Nevada residents facing foreclosure or who have lost their homes, as well as those seeking loan modifications or who are current but underwater on their home loans. It will also help people who are working toward home ownership.

"It doesn't make sense to bring together this wonderful consortium to help homeowners if homeowners don't know it exists," she said.

Johnson said she expected that as many as 45,000 distressed or displaced homeowners could get relief over the next three years. A toll free telephone hotline and website began operating last month.

Masto obtained approval last August from a state legislative panel to use $11.7 million to set up the resource network for Nevadans trying to access $25 billion available nationwide for mortgage assistance.

Money for the Home Again program comes from $57 million Nevada received from five of the nation's largest banks as part of a national foreclosure settlement last February. The state also negotiated a separate $30 million settlement with Bank of America.

Masto has called it important to get the program up and running because money is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Clark County assessor recorded more than 105,000 foreclosure sales between January 2007 and June 2012 in the Las Vegas area. Luis Arturo Lopez, an analyst at the Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said almost 85,000 of those foreclosures were single-family residences.

Nationwide, authorities say about 11 million households are underwater.

The settlement requires the banks to reduce loans for about 1 million households at risk of foreclosure. The lenders will also send $2,000 each to about 750,000 Americans who were improperly foreclosed upon from 2008 through 2011. The banks have until 2015 to fulfill terms of the deal.


Home Again, Nevada Homeowner Relief Program: www.HomeAgainNevada.gov. Toll-free 1-855-HLP-4-NEV (1-855-457-4638).


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