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Lenders Reach Out to Severely Delinquent

Mortgage bankers found, fund NeighborWorks

May 10, 2006

By MortgageDaily.com staff

Many of the nation's biggest mortgage players have banded together to reduce foreclosures.

The national foreclosure rate on mortgages has more than doubled since 2000 and a majority of the nearly 3 million households that have entered foreclosure in the past five years are located in geographic "hotspots" that are disproportionately low-income and minority, according to NeighborWorks America.

In an effort to minimize foreclosures in demographic and geographic foreclosure hotspots, a total of 15 major financial services institutions have partnered with the NeighborWorks Center for Foreclosure Solutions and the Homeownership Preservation Foundation to provide better research and early alert systems, improved counseling capacity, and to increase partnerships among cities, lenders and servicers, NeighborWorks announced.

Freddie Mac, American General Financial Services Inc. and ABN AMRO Mortgage Group Inc. were the latest players to join the cast, NeighborWorks said Monday.

The original 12 consist of the nation's top originator, Countrywide Home Loans, and Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC - North America, Chase, National City Mortgage Co., New Century Financial Corp., Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, Option One Mortgage, Residential Capital Corp., Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo.

"We welcome Freddie Mac, American General and ABN AMRO Mortgage Group to this exciting and important project that will help maintain healthy neighborhoods across the country," said Ken Wade, chief executive of NeighborWorks America, in a written statement.

The cast of financial institutions will contribute more than $1 million to the center, as well as provide trade insights and information to educate a force of counselors equipped to navigate the "very complex" loan servicing process, NeighborWorks said.

"This show of support from the lending community demonstrates the enormous stake we share with lenders in the effort to stop foreclosures," Wade said. "Contrary to some stereotypes, banks stand to lose in foreclosures as well. It is much less expensive for lenders, cities and families to counsel and restructure loans than it is to foreclose on a home."

In 2004, it was found lender-offered repayment plans reduced home loss among low-and-moderate income borrowers by 68 percent, NeighborWorks noted.

The national program, launched April 11, 2006, in Ohio -- where foreclosures have more than doubled in the last five years, will target key hotspots across the country where foreclosure rates have skyrocketed. Delinquent borrowers are first linked to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation hotline to learn strategies and receive counseling to avoid foreclosure, and are referred to local nonprofits if further face-to-face counseling is necessary.

NeighborWorks says the "intensive" publicity and information provided to Ohioans during the launch period has raised the number of calls to the hotline to 50 from 10 a day. Over 250 borrowers have been counseled by the hotline and another 75 have been referred out to Ohio NeighborWorks organizations.

"We are heartened by the increased number of Ohio homeowners seeking advice on how to avoid foreclosure as a result of the program's announcement," Wade added. "The earlier homeowners seek assistance and guidance the better their chances are of avoiding foreclosure."

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