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

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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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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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