$25 Billion Mortgage Relief Program Hasn't Worked Out So Great

| Thu Sep. 26, 2013 11:31 AM EDT

Remember that $25 billion mortgage settlement with five big banks last year? The idea was to use the money to help underwater homeowners, and the best way to do that is via debt forgiveness. So how did that work out? A new report from UC Irvine law professor Katherine Porter, who was appointed to study the issue by California's attorney general, says that the program hasn't worked out so great:

The vast majority of the aid to borrowers, it turns out, came in the form of short sales and forgiveness of second mortgages. Just 20% of the aid doled out under the national settlement went to forgiveness of first-mortgage principal, the kind of help most likely to keep troubled borrowers in their homes. In terms of borrowers helped, just 15% of the total received first-mortgage forgiveness

The five banks collectively delivered twice as much aid using short sales, in which owners sell their homes for less than the amount owed and move out, with the shortfall forgiven.

....Bruce Marks, founder of Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America, a major housing counseling group, had a [harsh] assessment of the lack of aid to keep people in their homes. "It just shows you that the banks are running the government," Marks said. "There's virtually no benefit to borrowers, and yet you give the banks credit for short sales and getting second liens wiped out — something they were going to have to do anyway."

In the end, this was better than nothing, but not nearly as good as it could have been. I'd be rich if I had a nickel for every time I'd said something like that.

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