By Anthony Silva, WBZ NewsRadio 1030 New England Business Editor

BOSTON (CBS) – Foreclosures in Massachusetts have hit their lowest level of the year. That’s according to the Warren Group, the publisher of Banker and Tradesman.

Editor Tim Warren says all the numbers are down, but the one he calls most important – “petitions to foreclose” – were down 17% in July, compared to a year earlier.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Anthony Silva reports

Warren says lenders are more willing to accept short sales now. He says we’re also seeing government programs that allow more underwater homeowners to refinance, and that may be slowing down the rate of foreclosures.

Warren adds foreclosures are up by more than 50% from a year ago, but that was when a number of banks delayed proceedings until legal technicalities could be worked out.

The state, meantime, is spending part of its share of the national mortgage settlement to help homeowners feeling the pressure of foreclosure.

The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation and the National Consumer Law Center are launching a 2-year effort to offer direct assistance to homeowners who are about to be foreclosed on or who have been evicted.

Janne Hellgren at Mass. Legal tells me the specially trained lawyers will have lots of tools available. She says those could be advice and counsel, pre-foreclosure and post-foreclosure help, modification to child support payments, help with unemployment insurance hearings, or help for those who are or who might soon be evicted.

The state has already received almost 8,000 requests for help from distressed homeowners.

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