Dedicated advocates around the country are working furiously on behalf of clients who face foreclosure. Surely some of these creative minds have figured out how to solve the foreclosure crisis—haven’t they? Well, no. Lenders and loan servicers continue to resist loan modification, despite new federal incentives contained in the Home Affordable Modification Program, and advocates continue to grapple with the foreclosure monster.
But promising efforts are underway. Philadelphia’s mandatory foreclosure diversion program, often held up as a model, can force lenders to come to the table. Of course, as advocates there point out, the program’s success relies on multiple pieces being in place: organizers (from ACORN, Philadelphia Unemployment Project, and other organizations) making personal contact with homeowners facing foreclosure, the Philadelphia Legal Assistance hotline, housing counselors, and representation in the actual mediation. While no panacea, a report on the program’s first year credits it with averting 1,400 foreclosures.
In areas where property values hit the stratosphere a couple of years ago many borrowers, to keep their homes, need not just loan modification but also principal reduction. In Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, advocates from Neighborhood Legal Services and community organizers from One LA joined forces to help homeowners negotiate collectively with their loan servicers; One LA used the data gathered to get the city council involved. The result is a pilot project through which, if the lender agrees to reduced principal and a fixed interest rate, the city will fund a “silent second” mortgage to reduce payments even further; the second mortgage is payable only upon sale or refinancing of the property.
Both these approaches were highlighted in a June 23 Shriver Center webinar, and the Los Angeles effort is also the subject of an article in the May-June 2009 issue of Clearinghouse Review. What innovative approaches are underway in your community? We’d love to hear about them. Email email@example.com