May 19, 2015
The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) released a report, Treasury’s Opportunity to Increase HAMP’s Effectiveness by Reaching More Homeowners in States Underserved by HAMP. The Introduction opens,
TARP’s signature foreclosure prevention program, the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”), has struggled to reach the expected number of homeowners Treasury envisioned for the program. According to Treasury, TARP’s housing support programs were intended to “help bring relief to responsible homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments, while preventing neighborhoods and communities from suffering the negative spillover effects of foreclosure.” Treasury announced that HAMP itself aimed “to help as many as three to four million financially struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure by modifying loans to a level that is affordable for borrowers now and sustainable over the long term,.” The only long-term sustainable help provided through HAMP is a permanent mortgage modification, which become effective after the homeowner successfully completes a trial period plan. Through December 31, 2014, according to Treasury data, 1,514,687 homeowners have been able to get into a more affordable permanent HAMP modification (of which, 452,322 homeowners, or 29%, subsequently redefaulted on their HAMP modifications), while there have been 6,165,544 foreclosures nationwide over the same period based on CoreLogic data.” (1, footnotes omitted)
There is a lot of soul searching in this report about why HAMP has been so ineffective and the report offers tweaks to the program to improve it. But perhaps the problem is structural — a program like HAMP was never really in a position to make a bigger impact on the foreclosure crisis.
When compared to the federal government’s intervention during the Great Depression, HAMP seems too modest. President Roosevelt’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation bought out mortgages from banks in bulk and then refinanced them on more attractive terms than the private sector offered. HAMP, on the other hand, has trouble getting homeowners to apply to the program in the first place.
Bottom line: HAMP is too retail and what we needed and need is something that could be done wholesale.