Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

October 7, 2013

Post-Bubble Foreclosure-Prevention and -Mitigation Options in Your Town?

By David Reiss

Bob Hockett has posted Post-Bubble Foreclosure-Prevention and -Mitigation Options in Seattle. I recommend it to those interested in issues beyond Seattle’s borders because it actually covers foreclosure-prevention and mitigation options across the country, although it looks at them with a Seattle focus.

He argues that

There is a potentially bewildering array of means available to at least some underwater homeowners, and these programs are also noteworthy for failing to solve the fundamental problems affecting these mortgages. There are three vitiating weakness share by nearly all of these means . . ..

The first weakness among currently available options is that they do not concentrate upon mortgage principal-reduction, meaning that they do nothing about the underwater status of underwater mortgage loans – which is the principal predictor of default and foreclosure – at all. Instead they rely upon temporary forbearance, term-extension, or interest rate reduction. . . .

The second weakness of the currently available options is that they are voluntary from the creditor’s point of view. That is problematic not because creditors lack in appreciation of their own enlightened self-interest or in desire to do the right thing, but because where there are structural or contractual barriers to principal reduction, as we shall see there are here in abundance, even creditor-benefiting such changes cannot occur on an adequate scale. Creditors are very often unable to do what benefits themselves and homeowners alike, meaning that voluntary programs can be useless.

Finally, the third weakness that the options discussed here suffer is that they do not extend to underwater PLS loans, which, as seen above, constitute the great bulk of troubled mortgage loans; they are in general available only to GSE and bank portfolio loans . . .. (11)

I found the review of “publicly encouraged debt relief” programs useful. (14) They include

  1. HAMP (the federal Home Affordable Modification Program)
  2. HARP (the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program)
  3. Miscellaneous Specialized HAMP Analogues
  4. FHA Short Refinance Program
  5. HAFA(federal Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative)
  6. “Hardest Hit” Fund & Program (Treasury)
  7. HOPE NOW Alliance
  8. The Attorney Generals’ Settlement

Hockett also proposes some innovative approaches that he suggests that Seattle should consider including the use of eminent domain as well as a land bank. Worth the read.


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