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Congressional staffers fight banks, City Hall over foreclosures

'They would have took my house,' Baltimore homeowner says

August 26, 2012|By Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun

Frequently there is a communication breakdown: The bank takes too long to reply to a loan modification request, or the borrower is unable to reach a lender on the phone.

"Some of these people want to work with congressional offices because they've had a bad experience," says Faith Schwartz, executive director of a coalition of mortgage servicers, investors and counselors.

The coalition, which calls itself HOPE NOW, is implementing a plan that it says will help as many homeowners as possible prevent foreclosure.

HOPE NOW says about 1.05 million homeowners nationwide received loan modifications in 2011, while about 843,000 houses were sold through foreclosure.

The coalition, which was formed at the height of the subprime mortgage crises, says it's the fourth year in a row that loan modifications have outpaced foreclosure sales.

"If you get a foreclosure notice, you might still have a way to work things out," HOPE NOW spokesman Brad Dwin said.

The coalition hosts foreclosure prevention workshops across the country.

"A lot of congressional folks are getting involved," Dwin said. "It's a huge issue. Everybody is trying to work toward solutions: The banks, the nonprofits, the government. Everybody is working nonstop. We've never see anything like this type of collaboration, ever."

Some data has shown the number of foreclosures slowing. But Schwartz, Facini and others say their on-the-ground experience hasn't changed much.

"Our hotline still gets 5,000 calls a day," Schwartz says.

Still, she says, there are more ways to help homeowners than ever.

Earlier this year, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler agreed to join other states in a $25 billion settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers over alleged foreclosure abuses.

Maryland's share, nearly $1 billion, is expected to be funneled to various housing programs, including those offering mortgage relief. The money is expected to help 40,000 current or former homeowners.

Under expanded government modification programs that went into effect in May, rental properties and homeowners facing high medical and credit card bills are now eligible for mortgage modifications.

"It's much better than it used to be," Schwartz said. "Sometimes we forget the breadth of activity going on around this issue."

luke.broadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

The costs of foreclosure

Maryland foreclosure projections (2009-2012): 163,479

U.S. home equity wealth lost due to foreclosures nearby, 2009-2012: $1.9 trillion

Maryland home equity lost wealth due to foreclosures nearby, 2009-2012: $31.3 billion

Number of Maryland homes experiencing foreclosure-related decline: 1,971,842

Average loss per home affected in Maryland: $15,856

Source: Center for Responsible Lending

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