Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let's Make A "Deal"

Foreclosure “relief” has been announced as coming for millions of American homeowners as state attorneys general, federal officials, and bankers finally agreed to the details of a long-awaited mortgage crisis settlement worth $26 billion dollars a few days ago. The agreement purports to help pay down the principal on homes and provide relief—albeit fairly small—for families who were victims of improper foreclosure practices. Despite these measures, many argue that the settlement lets banks off too easily. Other critics argue that the settlement is nothing more than extortion as banks shareholders will end up footing the bill for little more than “sloppy” paperwork. Senator Sherrod Brown claims the measure will pass the cost to “middle-class Americans” and is too small; attorneys general Eric Schneiderman of New York and Martha Coakley of Massachusetts fought for the ability to hold banks accountable for other and future claims; Representative Brad Miller thinks that the government still needs to investigate the ugly predatory practices engaged in by many banks including Countrywide and Citigroup.

As it stands, the deal could affect 1 million homeowners by providing them up to $20,000 in debt reduction on their homes. On one hand, the multi-billion relief looks favorable for some homeowners, though most would likely argue that they are underwater on their homes significantly more than $20k. On the other hand, the settlement “pales in comparison with the fallout from the housing bust.” The banks are seeking to settle claims that they engaged in abusive foreclosure practices, including robo-signing foreclosure documents or fraudulent attempts to foreclose without the required deeds or documents. The settlement has left both Wall Street apologists and consumer advocates unhappy.


  1. Too Little Too Late...

    While I believe that any kind of foreclosure relief is a good thing for the millions of American citizens who are currently upside-down or drowning in mortgage debt on their current homes, this does nothing for the millions of other families who have already lost everything to predatory lending practices. In central Florida, families were being kicked out of their homes as early as summer 2008. It was not uncommon to see families kicked out of their homes who had moved into Winnebagos, moving trucks, and decommissioned school busses. Homeless shelters were overpacked. Children were being dropped off at school from the same vehicle in which they lived. Gas station bathrooms were turned into makeshift bathing areas so families could maintain some aspect of hygiene. Because space was so limited, some personal belongings had to be left behind, available to the banks to do with as they wished.
    Where is the relief for those families? I guess at this point, those families are officially off the books...

  2. Yet another example of bureaucratic efforts, well-intentioned, but inefficient and likely ineffective. The payout is too insignificant in light of heavy economic burdens. $2,000 is large sum of money, but compared to the cost of housing, bank charges, insurance, moving expenses, and other non-economic costs, I do not envision a turn-around of the current situation. I will concede that the banks are not faultless, especially in light of countless stories of predatory lending. However, the money would have been better spent on fixing the actual problem- educating consumers. For example, my sister and brother and law bought a house within their means at the height of the Washington, D.C. metro market, which is now worth less than half its then-market value. They did their homework, shopped around, and spent less than their pre-approved amount. Even as smart consumers, they lost when the bubble burst, and it seems that there is no relief in sight- not even $2,000.00, which is reserved for those areas "hardest hit." Admittedly I am guessing, but I assume the hardest hit areas means those areas where consumers lived most out of their means and government intervention is needed to avoid even further decline. I am not necessarily against government action, but educating consumers about home buying and simplifying the process to buy a home, while warning banks to stop predatory practices, goes further than a small check. And for those, like my sister, who receive no assistance, a more educated body of consumers, at least, provides some intrinsic relief.