Although it is tougher to get a home equity mortgage than it was before the financial crisis, it's still not impossible, and in many cases, if you have a strong credit rating and balance sheet, isn't that much more difficult at all than it used to be, as banks don't make money if they're not lending out money; it's just that they're giving a lot more scrutiny to home equity mortgage loans than they have in the past.
One major consideration is how much you owe on your home, where you live, and how steeply the value has fallen. Assuming your financially qualified, the home value itself and what you owe on it is what will determine your success in getting a HELOC, and if those numbers are positive, your chances of getting a loan are obviously much better.
If you live in hard it states like California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, where property values have plunged, and there's not sign they're going to rebound any time soon, it's really difficult to get a home equity mortgage, so you will need to manage expectations when you go seeking one there.
For those that have owned their homes for some time and have a positive balance after paying down the loan for awhile, have a decent chance of getting a home equity mortgage than those that haven't. Don't be afraid to ask, as the answer in many cases will be yes, but just not as many yes's are being said as they were in the past.