Across the United States, millions of homeowners struggle every month to keep making their mortgage payments. Many face foreclosure, even after they've pleaded with their creditors to work with them. But to many banks, a vacant home holds more profit potential than one with a family paying at a reduced monthly rate. Often times, when the business end of a foreclosure is knocking at the front door, the home has already been sold.
Soon, that may not be the case.
President Obama wants to make foreclosures much harder for banks, funneling them through the administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which is overseen by the government's new "Making Home Affordable" program.
Treasury Department documents obtained by Bloomberg News revealed the plan, which the White House discussed with mortgage lenders last week.
"At present, lenders can initiate foreclosure proceedings on any loan that hasn’t been submitted for HAMP eligibility," the wire service reported. "Under current HAMP rules, foreclosure litigation can proceed while borrowers are under review for the program or even in a trial modification."
""It is one of the many ideas under consideration in the administration’s ongoing housing stabilization efforts,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Business Week. “This proposal has not been approved and there are no immediate planned announcements on the issue."
The program would put a stop to all foreclosures once a homeowner enters the loan modification program. Currently, HAMP provides incentives for lenders to modify mortgages.
Republicans, meanwhile, are up in arms over the proposal, attacking the program so far as a "failure" and blaming it for extending the housing crisis.
"'By every empirical measure, HAMP has failed,' concluded Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.," according to ABC News.
Out of the 1 million homeowners who applied for the program when it was initiated last fall, just 116,000 have completed it, according to The Washington Post.
A Republican-sponsored report further claims that many homeowners would be better off simply defaulting on their loans. While utilizing a strategic loan default is in fact a useful tool for many home owners who realize they stand to lose more by trying to stay in a home as opposed to abandoning the loan, it is not an option for many.
"According to data released by the Mortgage Bankers Association, a record 15 percent of American mortgage holders are either in foreclosure or at least one payment behind," ABC News added. "In the past year, the number of seriously delinquent mortgage owners has soared."
"Last week, President Obama launched yet another initiative to avert foreclosures, offering $1.5 billion from the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to housing finance agencies in California and four other states where home prices have dropped by at least 20%," The Los Angeles Times noted in a Tuesday editorial. "The administration gave states a great deal of flexibility in using the aid, which will help them craft programs for those who owe more than their homes are worth or who have lost their jobs and need temporary or transitional help."