Md. is helping people avoid foreclosure

December 22, 2010

In response to Jamie Smith Hopkins' article in the Dec. 20 edition of The Sun, I believe your headline, "State mortgage program lags on modifying loans," presents an inaccurate assessment of Maryland's foreclosure prevention efforts. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development has not been slow to make mortgage payments more affordable for homeowners. DHCD has gone above and beyond what commercial lenders and servicers do to help homeowners who have received a foreclosure notice on their Maryland Mortgage Program loans. We don't wait for homeowners to call us; we have an agreement in place for our servicer to call borrowers who are late with their payments. We not only return phone calls, we make phone calls.

The Maryland Mortgage Program is available to assist first-time home buyers with competitive mortgage rates and down payment assistance. When our borrowers — for whatever reason — begin to have difficulty making mortgage payments, we assist them and make every viable effort to keep them in their homes, and the department has recently introduced additional loan modification options in order to provide fiscally prudent assistance to a greater number of Maryland Mortgage Program borrowers.

However, contrary to the subtext of the article, not every borrower who calls us is asking for a lower mortgage payment. They are asking for assistance in saving their homes. We provide such assistance, often without the need to lower the mortgage payment. Every modification that results in a lower payment has a cost, usually borne by the department or the mortgage insurer. This cost must be taken into account in coming up with solutions for individual borrowers.

There are no quick or easy fixes to the individual circumstances that families in Maryland and throughout the country face, solutions are often developed on a case by case basis — taking into consideration a host of very complicated financial requirements. We give every homeowner open, honest and unbiased information about their options so they can make the best decision possible for their family. And we are looking for sustainable solutions. Merely lowering a mortgage payment does not mean that a home is saved. Homeowners must be able to continue to make payments, or they will still be in danger of losing their homes in the long run.

The state of Maryland will continue to work with servicers, lenders, mortgage insurers, housing counselors and community partners to develop viable solutions that will help sustain homeownership for working families.

DHCD has not been slow in making mortgage payments more affordable for our customers. We have been responsive and responsible. We want our customers to have a sustainable mortgage, one that will enable them and their families to remain in their homes over the long run. If that simply isn't possible, we help them explore other options. We're not in this for short term solutions; we're in it for the long haul.

Raymond A. Skinner, Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

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