Mortgage settlement funds sought for housing assistance

Nebraska’s share of funds from a national mortgage settlement would be directed toward housing assistance under a bill heard Feb. 25 by the Appropriations Committee.

LB286, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, would make the following transfers from the state’s Cash Reserve Fund on or before Sept. 1, 2013:
• $5.4 million to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund;
• $1 million to the Homeless Shelter Assistance Trust Fund; and
• $1 million to the Legal Aid and Services Fund.

Nebraska placed its share of the national mortgage settlement in the state’s cash reserve, Conrad said, and LB286 would make sure that those funds serve their intended purpose.

The settlement resulted from an agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers over questionable mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure practices, she said.

“The purpose of these [settlement] funds is to provide relief to those harmed by these actions,” Conrad said.

Mike Renken, executive director of NeighborWorks Lincoln, testified in support of the bill, saying the organization has leveraged money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide down payment assistance, new construction and rehabilitation of troubled properties in several of Lincoln’s core neighborhoods.

“We help at least 50 people a year become homeowners,” Renken said. “We want them to be in the home long-term.”

Executive director of Legal Aid of Nebraska Dave Pantos also supported the bill, saying his organization serves people with foreclosure and other legal needs related to the housing crisis in every county in the state.

“We want to continue to provide free legal services to those who are struggling,” he said.

No one testified in opposition and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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