Western Colorado Lacks Vital Housing Counselors

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3min 56sec

The good news is foreclosures on the Front Range are down. The news isn’t so good in the western part of the state though, where foreclosures are still at their peak. To make matters worse there are hardly any foreclosure counselors in the mountains or on the Western Slope. Counselors can help homeowners navigate the complex foreclosure process and maybe even save their homes. Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus has the story.

Reporter Ben Markus: Amy Case has been a foreclosure counselor for the last three years. She originally got into counseling to help people who wanted to buy a house. Now she spends most of her time trying keep people from losing their house.

Amy Case: Burnout is pretty high in the foreclosure counseling industry, this is a high emotionally charged, high stress position.

Reporter: Case works for the non-profit Grand Junction Housing Authority. And that group alone has taken on one hundred eighty foreclosure cases since last fall.

Case: Until January that was done with one full-time employee and a volunteer.

Reporter: She says they’ve added one full-time and one part-time counselor. But it’s simply not enough to handle the growing pool of foreclosures on the Western Slope.

Case: You know, and it’s hard to sort of turn people away or refer them to telephone counseling and we have to do that, and it’s not what we want to do, but it’s the reality of the situation.

Reporter: And for many homeowners this free service can make the difference between losing or saving a home. Counselors can assess the individual situation and give their clients options. Case says the foreclosure process is far from straightforward.

Case: You know I can’t tell you how often I hear, ‘every time I call I talk to a different person, every time I call they have something different to tell me, I’ve tried to apply and they keep asking for the same paperwork over and over.’ It’s extremely frustrating to the homeowner.

Reporter: That frustration has just reached its peak on the Western Slope. Ryan McMaken is an economist at the state Division of Housing. He says foreclosures hit there well after the rest of the state.

Ryan McMaken: There was so much job growth and demand for real estate overall out west because of oil and gas that it really kept things going further and higher than it did on the Front Range.

Reporter: As the recession overtook the whole state, housing eventually collapsed on the Western Slope. And McMaken says those communities weren’t prepared.

McMaken: You definitely need more than two or three counselors within the Grand Junction area to really address that issue properly.

Housing Counselor Shannon Peer: Unfortunately the funding for housing counseling is actually on the decline.

Shannon Peer is director of housing counseling for Brothers Redevelopment in Denver, the largest non-profit foreclosure counseling group in the state. He says in the past the federal government helped fund foreclosure counseling. But given deep budget cuts on Capitol Hill that’s ending.

Peer: And they are one of the largest funders of the foreclosure prevention counseling efforts.

Reporter: Now counseling services have to rely on state money and fundraising to get by. Peer says the state of Colorado has programs that delay foreclosure, but the kicker is, certified counseling is required to qualify. And the counselors just aren’t there.

Back in Grand Junction, counselor Amy Case is frustrated by the lack of financial support for what she does.

Case: Everybody is saying housing counseling works, and we want you to participate in it. And I don’t know if they realize that that’s a little more difficult in rural communities. And now funding has been cut.

Reporter: And she and her counselors still have there work cut out for them. Last quarter there were nearly 700 foreclosure fillings in the western part of the state alone.

[Photo: Flickr user thinkpanama]