Government to Give $600M in Housing Aid to 5 States

The Associated Press

The Obama administration on Monday announced $600 million in financial support for five more states with high unemployment that have been slammed by the housing bust.

A Lennar housing development is seen in Broomfield, Colorado June 26, 2007. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Ohio got the largest share of funding, at $172 million, followed by North Carolina at $159 million and South Carolina at $138 million. Oregon and Rhode Island are due to receive $88 million and $43 million respectively.

The money will be given to state housing finance agencies. They will design mortgage assistance programs that meet broad criteria provided by the Treasury Department.

“The purpose of this is to foster innovation in dealing with what is a highly localized problem around the country,” said Herbert Allison, an assistant Treasury secretary, adding, “we want to learn from the innovations.”

Last month, the Obama administration said it would give $1.5 billion to state housing agencies in Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada, which have some of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.

Monday’s action is the latest tactical change for the Obama administration, which has been under pressure to do more to tackle the foreclosure crisis. On Friday, the administration launched a plan to reduce the amount some homeowners owe on their mortgages and give jobless homeowners a temporary break.

The Obama administration targeted North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Rhode Island because they have the largest share of residents living in counties with unemployment rates above 12 percent.

In Rhode Island, for example, about 60 percent of the population lives in counties with jobless rates above that benchmark, compared to about 15 percent of the population nationally.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who pushed for the help, called the aid “a smart investment that will help Rhode Island and other states that have been hit hardest by the recession.”

Other states, such as Alabama, Illinois and Mississippi, actually have higher statewide unemployment rates than Oregon or Ohio, but did not meet the government’s criteria.

“The goal was to try to target the states which have more concentrated economic distress,” said Alan Krueger, the Treasury Department’s top economist.