Reid, housing industry reach out to stem foreclosures | NevadaAppeal.com

Reid, housing industry reach out to stem foreclosures

SCOTT SONNER
Associated Press Writer

RENO – Sen. Harry Reid joined mortgage bankers and leaders of housing assistance agencies Wednesday in a new push to reach out with help for the skyrocketing number of Nevadans facing foreclosures.

Citing a 300-percent increase in foreclosures in Washoe, Douglas, Elko and Nye counties over the past two years, the Nevada Democrat also said the Bush administration should spend more on housing assistance and less on the war in Iraq.

Reid said industry leaders and nonprofit organizations are initiating a mobile resource center to help homeowners as well as setting up toll-free phone numbers for free advice to those in financial trouble – 1-800-451-4505 and 1-888-995-HOPE.

“What we’re here to tell the people of the state of Nevada today is we want to help,” Reid said at a news conference at the federal courthouse in Reno. “People who lend money for houses do not want to foreclose. It loses them money.”

Kirk Clausen, regional president of Wells Fargo Nevada, said Reid is “dead on.”

“Our goal is to keep people in their homes,” he said. “If we can somehow reach out to the borrower who is distressed and get them to make that call to the lender, early on is the best opportunity to help.”

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Gail Burks, president of the Nevada Fair Housing Center, said too many people wait until the week or two before a foreclosure is scheduled to pursue alternatives.

“We’re making a special plea to consumers, if you are having difficulty, please contact someone to get help,” Burks said.

“Do not sign your home over to people. Do not walk away. We can fix this,” she said.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said a special legislative committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 22 to address the problem.

“We can’t afford to wait until the next legislative session in February 2009,” Leslie said.

“The problem has reached a crisis level in our state, with Nevada having the highest rate of foreclosures in the nation,” she said.

Foreclosures statewide increased 280 percent from May 2005 to May 2007, including more than doubling in Clark County.

Burks said her agency and others have suffered significant cuts in funding since the war in Iraq began while the demand for their services increases. Reid said he’s working to change that in Congress.

“For one week of spending on the Iraq war, roughly $2.3 billion, the federal government could provide housing counseling agencies the resources they need to help 1.7 million families, or about the number of ARM resets we expect in the next 14 months,” Reid said.

“Less than one day’s spending in Iraq could help save 130,000 families from losing their homes,” he said.