A Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization has assembled $1 billion to help borrowers avoid foreclosure. Plans include personal campaigns against chief executive officers. Meanwhile, individual states and at least one mortgage servicer have taken steps in anticipation of rising foreclosures.
The group, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, announced a $1 billion commitment yesterday "to rescue the victims of predatory lenders and to organize victims to stop the foreclosures and make them whole."
NACA, founded in 1988, said it counsels borrowers into loans they can afford to pay. It claims to have been the first to expose lending abuses at Fleet Bank in 1991.
"The lenders, investment banks, brokers and other predators need to modify their loans on the terms the borrowers were initially qualified for," the statement said. "The re-sets, that often double the initial interest rate, will cause a massive number of foreclosures, destabilizing communities nationwide."
The group, which says it "has been the lead organization in the fight to identify, expose, and oppose predatory lending and exploitive lending practices," is calling for delinquent borrowers and those at risk of foreclosure to visit its 33 offices at 2 p.m. on April 21. With the networking of similarly situated people, strategies can be shared and discussed.
"NACA will work with them to personalize the fight to the CEOs and decision-makers who orchestrated the borrower's financial and personal destruction," according to the announcement.
Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC donated $200,000 to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, according to an announcement Tuesday.
The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based servicer's funding will reportedly be used to prevent U.S. foreclosures through a national consumer hotline.
"The Foundation is making a real difference in helping thousands of people stay in their homes, many of those Ocwen customers," Ocwen executive Bill Rinehart said in the statement.
In Massachusetts, a Mortgage Summit Working Group convened by the commissioner of banks, Steven L Antonakes, made several recommendations in a report announced Wednesday to deal with rising foreclosures. Included in the group were nearly 50 participants from government agencies, non-profit organizations and mortgage lending.
Among the recommendations outlined was a call for support of the multi-state licensing system being developed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors, prohibition of abusive foreclosure rescue schemes and recommended guidance clarifying that borrowers should be qualified based on repayment ability at fully-indexed rates. Changes to the foreclosure process, including the requirement of a notice of intention to foreclose period during which no additional fees could accrue, was also suggested.
The report recommended developing a foreclosure intervention mortgage program for borrowers who could still qualify for financing with flexible terms and credit enhancements and a right to cure provision to allow a consumer the ability to pay all payments in default. The criminalization of mortgage fraud, toughening of mortgage licensing standards and increasing of regulatory resources were also suggested.
"The efforts of these working groups reflect the kind of aggressive, industry wide reforms that need to be made in order to solve the rising foreclosure issues that currently plague Massachusetts," said Governor Deval Patrick, a former board member of Ameriquest Mortgage Co., in the statement.
Ohio's Housing Finance Agency intends to make $100 million available from a taxable bond sale for an estimated 1,000 30-year mortgages with a fixed-rate of about 6.75% that would be provided to some borrowers faced with foreclosure. The program is in the process of being explained to the agency's 185 lending partners, the agency's director of programs told MortgageDaily.com.
In a proposal to Congress, the nation's bankruptcy attorneys claimed changes to bankruptcy law would help alleviate foreclosures and the potential $164 billion in lost home equity. The statement noted 2.2 million subprime borrowers lost homes to foreclosures or were headed in that direction last year.
"While primarily low-income subprime mortgage borrowers face often insurmountable bankruptcy hurdles to hold onto their homes -- high-income individuals in bankruptcy court get preferential treatment when they seek to save second and third homes," according to a joint announcement Thursday from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, the Consumer Federation of America and the Center for Responsible Lending. "The only chance many of these (subprime) borrowers have is through declaring bankruptcy."
The proposal said mortgage lenders are favored over other creditors by the current bankruptcy code because of a 1978 amendment eliminating protection from foreclosure.
Bankruptcy will only be an option if the "code is revised to eliminate or limit the provisions that exclude home loans from bankruptcy protection," bankruptcy attorney Henry Sommer said in the statement.
The groups also called for the lowering of hurdles for Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings, the reduction of accruing lender fees during bankruptcy and the elimination of mandatory arbitration. A homestead exemption for the elderly was also recommended.
Key U.S. Democratic senators floated the idea of a federal assistance for borrowers heading into foreclosure, according to published reports.