Ten of the 14 distressed homeowners Teresa Seeley tried to help last month will probably lose their homes to foreclosure anyway. "We don't have enough...

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Ten of the 14 distressed homeowners Teresa Seeley tried to help last month will probably lose their homes to foreclosure anyway.

“We don’t have enough follow-up because we don’t have enough time. We need more counselors,” said Seeley, housing counseling coordinator for Consumer Counseling Northwest in Pierce County.

In Kitsap County, housing counselor Marvelle Lahmeyer is feeling much the same frustration. This year her agency, the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority, expects to see as many problem-mortgage clients this spring as it saw in all of 2007. But with her counseling budget cut, there’s not enough help for them, Lahmeyer said.

The counselors were two of a dozen housing-industry professionals who briefed Sen. Patty Murray today during a foreclosure roundtable sponsored by the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

Their messages contained doses of reassurance and concern.

While Washington’s foreclosure rate is low — just 1 percent compared to 3 percent nationally — it could get worse as more adjustable-rate subprime loans reset in the future, jeopardizing homeowners’ ability to make their mortgage payments.

The housing slowdown is having a ripple effect that’s exacerbating the problem. On the Kitsap Peninsula people who depend on the housing industry for work are seeing their hours cut, making it hard for them to meet their mortgage payments, Lahmeyer reported.

Additionally, the current lack of home appreciation is preventing homeowners from building equity that could help them refinance out of problem mortgages, noted J. Lennox Scott, CEO and chairman of John L. Scott.

While none of the roundtable participants suggested there was a magic-bullet solution, they did offer a number of ideas to improve the situation.

Among them: more money for housing counseling, a greater emphasis on financial literacy, raising the $417,000 conventional loan limits to spur home sales and stepping up help from lenders to struggling borrowers.

Last year Murray, who chairs the Senate’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, got $500,000 in federal money for housing counseling in Washington state. After hearing from roundtable participants she said more needs to be done.

Elizabeth Rhodes: erhodes@seattletimes.com